Members of the Alliance of Progressive Labor-Sentro ng Progresibong Pagbabago (APL-SENTRO) trooped to the Department of Labor and Employment to protest the announcement of Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz in recent media interviews that the wage hike will be in the range of P13.00 to P21.00.
“The workers are asking for a minimum wage that will give their families decent lives. The offer of DoLE is a pittance that only adds insult to injury as the government continues to treat the workers without respect and dignity,” said Edwin Bustillos, Deputy Secretary General of APL-SENTRO.
With a few days to go before Labor Day, APL and the newly-found labor center, SENTRO, add their voices to the growing clamor for adjustments in minimum wage levels while reiterating their demand for reforms in the wage setting mechanism.
“Truth is, we are merely asking for wage recovery rather than a real wage increase,” Bustillos said. According to government’s own figures, the purchasing power of the current daily minimum wage in the NCR of P426 is only P248.40, an erosion of 41.69%.
“Historically, the regional wage boards are susceptible to the signals given by Malacañang or by the DOLE. The statement of Secretary Baldoz is therefore a bad signal that would put a cap on the amount that the regional wage board would decide,” Bustillos said. “The wage boards have yet to prove us wrong,” he added.
“All workers, and not just minimum wage earners, deserve wage adjustments,” added Bustillos. “But unfortunately, the RWPBs are limited to minimum wage adjustments. Worst, they are usually made useless by too many exemptions, not to mention that these minimum wages are rampantly violated.”
Ultimately, the regional wage-setting mechanism should be abandoned. “The wage boards in their current set-up do not adequately respond to workers’ needs, and a new mechanism should be put in place,” Bustillos said.
The APL-SENTRO is pushing for House Bill 2512 that would rationalize wage setting. Introduced by Akbayan representatives Walden Bello and Kaka Nag-ao, the bill would institute a single minimum wage at the national level and replace the regional wage boards with industry wage boards, which will set a higher minimum wage in industries that are capable of doing so.
The bill is currently pending in the HOR Committee on Labor.
“The geographical approach taken by the wage boards now only distort wage levels around the country and perpetuate poverty as they keep wage levels low in areas where workers are already poor,” said Bustillos.
APL-SENTRO is a member of NAGKAISA!, the broadest issue-based labor coalition that was recently launched. On May Day, APL-SENTRO members will march in key cities around the country and will link arms with other members of NAGKAISA!