THE Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) cited “nutritional deficiency” among workers as the reason for its petition to hike the Metro Manila minimum wage by P710, citing government data for recommended levels of nutrition.
The TUCP on Monday filed a petition for a P710 wage increase on top of the P500-537 minimum wage in the National Capital Region (NCR) before the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB).
TUCP President Raymond C. Mendoza said the “Pinggang Pinoy” model produced by the Department of Science and Technology-Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI) is their “basis for the claim that minimum-wage earners and their families have subsisted on nutritionally-deficient survival meals.”
“Forcing workers and their families to subsist on nutritionally-deficient meals for a long period will definitely have bigger repercussions on business, bigger costs to the government and the economy if (the problem is) continuously ignored,” he added during a press briefing on Monday.
In TUCP’s Petition dated April 29, the group said “Using DoST’s Pinggang Pinoy model and the March 2019 PSA (Philippine Statistics Authority) Media Service Market Price of Selected Commodities, Ateneo Policy Center calculates a daily food requirement in the amount of P734 for a family of four (4) or P61.17/meal/person. A family of five would then require a daily right food budget of P917.50.”
TUCP also described as inaccurate the PSA’s 2018 Household Final Consumption Expenditure (HFCE) Survey, specifically the “Food and alcoholic beverage” estimates, which indicate that a family of five spends P208.83 or P14 per meal/family member daily.
“Clearly, the amount cannot provide for the recommended nutritional requirements for a family of five,” the TUCP said in its petition.
TUCP also said that the P537 minimum wage has long been overtaken by events even though it was implemented in November. “(B)ased on government figures, the real value of P537 daily minimum wage in NCR is only P457…with government-mandated deductions from minimum wage computed at P47.05 daily, the nominal take-home pay of a minimum wage earner is… P416.53/day with a real value of P354.60,” TUCP said.
When asked if the TUCP will be expanding its petition to other regions, Associated Labor Unions (ALU) Vice President for Education Eva B. Arcos said that TUCP is still looking into petitioning other RTWPBs. She added that other wage hike petitions will be close to the P710 TUCP sought for the NCR.
“Nagpa-plano kami (We are planning)to file a petition in Central Visayas. It’s still in process but it will be close to this figure.” she told reporters Monday, after submitting the TUCP petition for the NCR.
The TUCP Policy Office’s Louisivi J. Oliva said the union expects the RTWPB to rule that there are no supervening conditions to justify a wage hike within a year since the last wage order was been issued. New wage petitions can only be filed after a year since the last petition, except when supervening conditions warrant the filing of a petition sooner.
She said workers are still feeling the weight of high commodity prices beyond food since the implementation of the first package of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law last year.
“Sa TRAIN Law, walang pakinabang ang minimum wage earner dahil dati na siyang tax exempt (TRAIN did not make a difference for minimum wage earners, who were already tax-exempt under the old rules). Ang nangyari lang is tumaas lang ang presyo…dahil sa dagdag na excise tax sa fuel, (But prices also rose because of the excise tax on fuel),” she said in a briefing on Monday.
Labor Undersecretary Ciriaco A. Lagunzad III told reporters in a briefing that one of the criteria for minimum wage setting is also the Pinggang Pinoy model of the FNRI. He said, “If you look at the criteria…one of them includes a living wage. One valuable indicator is the study of the FNRI to see if wages are enough to buy food that ensure the minimum calorie requirement.”
However, he added: “The minimum wage is not designed to look only at the food requirement of the worker.”
Last week, labor groups Kilos Na Manggagawa (KnM), Metal Workers’ Alliance of the Philippines (MWAP), and BPO Industry Employees Network (BIEN) filed before the NCR RTWPB a P213 wage hike petition which would bring the NCR minimum daily wage to P750.
Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III backed “in principle” the TUCP wage hike but added that the matter may need to be addressed after the May 13 elections.
“I can understand the timing because of May 1st but it’s also election period. Therefore, it would be wise to address it after the elections,” Mr. Sotto told reporters over the phone Monday.
“In principle, I am supportive.”
Senator Panfilo M. Lacson, meanwhile, cited the need to study the petition carefully and give the wage boards leeway to decide.
“A thorough study must be made in this regard. Wage hikes are always associated with inflation as a consequence of higher prices of goods, especially in the manufacturing sector, not to mention possible loss of jobs since businesses may not be able to cope,” Mr. Lacson said in a separate phone message.
“The regional wage boards should be given enough flexibility since they should be in a better position to decide on the matter. Conditions obtaining in different areas are not the same.” — Gillian M. Cortez, Charmaine A. Tadalan