Editorial: P31 wage hike in Central Visayas: An insult to workers

·3 min read

Some business leaders in Cebu had this to say about the decision of the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board in Central Visayas (RTWPB 7) to increase workers’ daily wage by P31. A fair increase, said Charles Kenneth Co, president of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Central Visayas governor Melanie Ng has encouraged the group’s members to “follow and comply with the new wage order.”

However, Ng noted that the RTWPB 7’s decision would “pose a challenge” to micro, small and medium enterprises that are still recovering from the economic nightmares brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic and Typhoon Odette (Rai) that struck parts of Cebu and Central Visayas last December. Retail entrepreneur Robert Go said the wage hike would be a “death sentence” to businesses that have yet to fully rise from both the pandemic and the typhoon.

The RTWPB 7 decision is not yet final as the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC) has the final say. If NWPC greenlights the RTWPB 7 resolution, the new wage hike would be implemented 15 days after the decision’s publication.

The P31 wage hike in Central Visayas is far from what some labor groups asked for: the Cebu Labor Coalition and its partners sought a P308 wage hike while the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines sought a P430 wage hike. News reports did not state how the RTWPB 7 came up with the P31 wage increase.

How far would P31 go, say, in Metro Cebu? The minimum fare of a modern jeepney is P11, one way. The increase could cover two-way travel of a commuting worker. But the increase could not cover the fares of workers from far-flung towns. For example, a person living in Consolacion who works at Cebu IT Park in Cebu City has to pay P30 for his modern jeepney fare, and that’s only one way. The IT Park worker has to shell out another P30 going back home.

The wage hike has been labeled an “insult to workers” in Central Visayas by progressive labor group Alyansa sa mga Mamumuo sa Sugbo-Kilusang Mayo Uno (AMA Sugbo-KMU), which said RTWPB 7’s decision implies that the goods here are cheaper than those in Western Visayas (the region’s RTWPB set a P55 increase in wage in companies with more than 10 workers, and P110 for those employing 10 or fewer workers).

Inflation caused by rising fuel prices aggravated by Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine and the ongoing pandemic has definitely hurt businesses and workers in Central Visayas.

Workers’ spending power is diminished by inflation, and the government knows this. Increasing employees’ wages would also hurt businesses; the government knows this too.

Setting the amount for the wage increase is a difficult balancing act these days. If approved, how would the P31 wage hike in Central Visayas add to the workers’ spending power? The amount carries no power to uplift an ordinary worker’s state of life.

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