by Jovic Yee, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Jan 2, 2019
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the approved minimum wage increases throughout the country were short of at least P100 for workers to be able to cope with the rising cost of basic commodities.
“In my view, the increase was too low. Personally I thought it should’ve been more. But you have to abide by the decision of the body mandated to make a decision on that issue,” Bello said in a recent interview with reporters.
“If I would have it my way, [the increase] would be at least P100.”
Due to the impact of the Duterte administration’s tax reform program on the cost of basic goods and services, labor groups across the country had sought an increase in the minimum wage.
Reforming wage setting
In Metro Manila, the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) had asked for an adjustment of P344 a day.
The wage board in Metro Manila, however, granted only a P25 hike, raising the daily minimum wage in the National Capital Region to P536, the highest in the country.
In other regions, the adjustment ranged from P9 to P56.
That is why he has ordered the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC) to expedite its review in 2019 of the wage structure, Bello said.
NWPC Executive Director Maria Criselda Sy said a study to be conducted by a third-party entity would determine the current system’s effectiveness and identify options the government could explore.
“So the study should be able to come up with some policy recommendations,” Sy said.
During the recent state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Bello said that he was told by one of the Chinese businessmen who was part of the official delegation that the country could afford to provide workers a significant wage hike.
“If you could just talk to him, he said that we could afford to increase by as much as P200. If you listen to [his reasons], it makes sense. But then again you have to consider the position of the employers’ group, ” Bello said, without identifying the businessman.
Happy worker, more efficient
“Happy workers produce efficiently. The happier the worker, the better the performance, then the business earns better,” he added.
TUCP president Raymond Mendoza said on Sunday that Bello’s plan to review the current wage-setting mechanism was a welcome development as he noted that it was high time that the 30-year-old mechanism be updated to truly benefit workers.
“It has served its purpose for a time in the past but due to some factors it has become obsolete and irrelevant to the present. It is supposed to balance the interest of labor and business in coming up with wage adjustments, but its wage orders have all been in favor of business,” Mendoza said.