Philippine labor

After ‘insulting’ P35 NCR wage hike, workers ramp up national campaign

Michelle Abad

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After ‘insulting’ P35 NCR wage hike, workers ramp up national campaign

CONTINUED CAMPAIGN. Various trade unions call for more significant increases for minimum wage earners in a press conference on July 3, 2024.


The Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino is looking to do a grassroots information campaign about wage issues, and invites other labor groups to join the effort

MANILA, Philippines – After the Metro Manila regional wage board approved what workers called a measly P35 increase for minimum wage earners in the region, labor groups are doubling down lobbying and campaign efforts to pass the bill granting a more substantial across-the-board base pay, labor groups said in a press briefing on Wednesday, July 3.

After ‘insulting’ P35 NCR wage hike, workers ramp up national campaign

The Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) in the National Capital Region (NCR) on Monday, July 1, approved a P35 increase for minimum wage earners, bringing the base salary in the non-agriculture sector from P610 to P645, and in the agriculture sector and establishments employing 15 or less workers from P573 to P608.

Various groups were dismayed by the decision, especially amid the months-long deliberations in Congress for increases worth at least triple what the Metro Manila board approved. The capital region traditionally has the highest minimum wage in the country.

Luke Espiritu, Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino president, said his group was looking to do a “saturation drive” to help bring the campaign down to workers in local communities.

These include a “mobile propaganda team” which will explain the wage issue to communities, distribute leaflets and posters, and conduct a signature campaign for the proposed national wage increase.

“The purpose of this is so we can have efforts from the ground in speaking to district-level members of the House from the workers’ community, so we can gather more support for the legislated wage increase of at least P150,” Espiritu said in a mix of Filipino and English.

He encouraged other trade unions to join in the effort.

Meanwhile, other labor groups have also continued lobbying efforts despite Congress being adjourned.

Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) legislative officer Paul Gajes said in the Wednesday briefing that even before Congress adjourned its Second Regular Session sine die in May, the group distributed co-authorship forms for House Bill No. 7871, the version of the bill authored by TUCP Representative and Deputy Speaker Raymond Mendoza seeking a P150 wage increase.

“It is a continued effort, together with the National Wage Coalition, we are doing some lobbying, especially now, as an offshoot of the P35-increase that the wage board provided – we will all the more double our efforts to push for the approval of the P150 legislated wage hike,” Gajes said.

The proposed wage increases in both chambers of Congress range from P100 to P750 based on various versions of the bill. In the Senate, the labor committee has passed the P100 version. Its counterpart at the House has yet to approve any of the versions.

Rene Magtubo, spokesperson for the Nagkaisa labor coalition, also said there was a continued lobbying effort, even in preparation for the bill’s discussion at the plenary level.

Positibo kami dadami lalo ang susuporta lalo sa wage hike lalo na nakita [ng mga mambabatas] ang kapalpakan ng wage board (We are positive that we will gather more support for the wage hike, especially since lawmakers have seen the failure of the wage board),” said Magtubo.

On Labor Day, May 1, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. ordered regional wage boards to reassess workers’ salaries.

Wake-up call

Magtubo said that the small increase from the Metro Manila wage board should entice lawmakers to fast-track deliberations of the bill. Employers groups have resisted the increases, citing inability to afford them. Others have said the proposed national increases may cause inflation or job losses – a stand Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma shares.

“In the Senate, the employers argued the same. But what did the senators do? They said we should give a P100-increase. In the House, what are they discussing? A P150-increase. Why, then, did the wage board approve P35?” Magtubo said in Filipino.

Siguro ito na yung pinakamalaking batayan para umaksyon yung Kongreso, lalo na yung lower house, itong napakababa at nakakainsultong wage increase na ibinigay ng NCR wage board,” he added.

(This must be the most significant basis for Congress to take action, especially the lower house, against the measly and insulting wage that the NCR wage board has given.)

Gajes said that for 16 years, productivity has been on the rise, but real wages of Filipino workers have been left behind. Even when increases are given, he said, these are small increments that could not sustain workers’ needs.

“If this continues – and we tie it up with the modern form of slavery which is endo or contractualization – then we are creating a permanent class of poor people, with these poverty wages. There is no real improvement in terms of our working class,” said Gajes.

“Our government is not serious in addressing the problem of hunger… [and] the stunted growth of children. We always talk about our poor PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) performance, right? These are all offshoots of malnutrition of children. Many of their parents are minimum wage earners,” he added.

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Congress is set to resume session on July 22. –

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers the rights of women and children, migrant Filipinos, and labor.