Zubiri eyes ₧100 in legislated daily wage hike, for P140 total


SENATE President Juan Miguel Zubiri is poised to pitch an amended legislated wage hike bill when Congress reopens on July 24, this time seeking a uniform P100 daily hike for minimum wage earners, to augment the P40 ordered by the Metro Manila regional wage board last week.

Zubiri explained that if the Congress-mandated P100 hurdles the vote, then workers would end up with P140 in total pay hikes, “which is quite close to our original proposal” of a P150 wage hike.

His proposal for P150 had hurdled committee level before Congress adjourned sine die last June 2, but the committee chair, Sen. Jionggoy, had said last weekend his panel will still continue to hear the wage issue despite the NCR wage order for P40.

Zubiri said, in an ANC interview, that he expects support from Estrada in moving an additional salary hike, this time mandated by Congress and not the wage boards.

“There’s no ban” stopping Congress “to come up with minimum legislated wage, or there’s no law.” He stressed, “There’s no law that bans us from actually coming up with legislated wage hikes.” The regional wage and productivity tripartite boards were created by law two decades ago and have since been mandated to determine how much wage adjustments must be made in the regions, depending on their cost of living and the ability of local businesses.

However, many quarters, including lawmakers like Zubiri, complained that regional wage boards have been slow in responding to workers’ needs. In the Monday interview, he noted that the regional bodies only started to move after several lawmakers filed bills for legislated wage hikes.

“So what we will do,” Zubiri added, “is we approved it already at the committee level. We already approved the P150 wage increase” in the pending bill, following hearings called by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada  who chairs the Committee on Labor. “So we can work on that [so that it approximates the] P150 that we proposed from the very beginning.”

At the same time, Zubiri stressed that the P40 is barely enough to meet the needs of workers and their families from persistently high inflation the past year.

“It’s not enough. We thank the wage boards for the increase but definitely that’s not enough. P40, as mentioned in your news item earlier, cannot buy a kilo of rice because if you go around the markets, one kilo of rice is about P44 to P45 today nowadays.”

He said they have “done our research, we’ve done our interviews, and definitely we need at least P100 increase per day to make a big impact [on] the labor force, at least in Metro Manila.”

He also noted, to underscore the smallness of the P40, that the higher will be exacted “SSS, Pag-ibig, and PhilHealth” such that by the time they get their salaries …they really don’t feel the change at all.”

Zubiri is confident that business “can afford it,” referring to higher pay. “What we need to do is increase the capacities and the happiness index of our workers,” he stressed.

NCR hike still paltry–IBON

Meanwhile, independent think tank IBON Foundation also decried the P40 wage order, underscoring the “constant wage erosion throughout the first year of the Marcos Jr. administration.”

The amount “is also a far cry from what labor groups demand and certainly much less than what Filipino workers need and deserve,” research group IBON said. The resulting NCR wage is still far below the family living wage, it added.

The NCR Regional Wage Board will increase the P570 daily minimum wage by P40 to P610 on July 16. This, IBON said, is “P490 short of the P1,100 minimum wage petition of the Unity for Wage Increase Now! (UWIN), P710 less than the Makabayan bloc’s proposed P750 wage increase, and P110 shy of Senator Miguel Zubiri’s P150 wage increase bid.”

IBON added that the resulting wage is still much less than the family living wage (FLW) of P1,160 for a family of five to live decently in NCR as of May 2023. There is still a wage gap of P550 and the new wage is still barely half or just 53 percent of the FLW in the NCR.

The wage hike, it said, “is the first and only one under the Marcos Jr. administration in any of the country’s 17 regions. In contrast, the Duterte administration had 11 wage hikes, Noynoy Aquino gave 17 hikes, and Arroyo 9 hikes in their respective first years in office. This highlights the current government’s insensitivity to millions of workers and their families struggling with the rising cost of living.”  

Image credits: Senate PRIB