Nagkaisa labor coalition calls for abolition of regional wage boards

Published November 9, 2018, 8:05 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Leslie Ann Aquino

The Nagkaisa labor coalition on Friday called for the abolition of regional wage boards.

Construction workers of MRT 7 on their daily routine in Quezon City. (Jansen Romero / MANILA BULLETIN)

The group issued the call as it lamented the announcement of a P25 pay increase for minimum wage workers in Metro Manila.

“The P25 adjustment for minimum wage in NCR that was approved last week by the Regional Tripartite Wage and Productivity Board (RTWPB) is latest proof of how wages fixed under this mechanism deepens inequality rather than eradicates chronic poverty,” Atty. Sonny Matula, chairperson of Nagkaisa, said in a statement.

“This meager increase simply fits into the 1989 template created by Republic Act 6727 where wage hike is decided based on employers’ ‘capacity to pay’ rather than on raising workers’ standard of living,” he added.

Matula said the template under the Wage Rationalization Act was designed to incentivize business rather than provide living wages to workers.

“Its tripartite mechanism produces countless hearings but totally without bearing to the actual price decided by the board,” he said.

Matula added that the regionalization of wages as state policy is a failure, thus the need to overhaul the system.

“Pursuing a living wage under the current setup is a hopeless case. Hence, our call to replace the current wage fixing mechanism with one that is national in nature and which criteria places living wage at the core,” he said.

Earlier, the Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) also issued the same call.

According to Daniel Edralin, SENTRO vice chairperson for the private sector, the said wage boards had not, and will never, issue adequate adjustments in the minimum wages because these seven-member boards are dominated by employers, two from the private sector, and three from agencies of the government, itself the largest employer in the country.

“What can the remaining two union representatives do during board deliberations and decision-making when the total five private and government employer representatives agree to continue enforcing the national government’s cheap labor policy?” Edralin asked.

“The government actually decides on the amounts of minimum wage raises with its three representatives (from DTI, NEDA and DOLE) needing only one more vote, which most of the time come from the two employers, who in turn will agree only to the lowest amount possible,” he said.

SENTRO secretary-general Josua Mata, in turn, recalled that prior to the enactment of RA 6727 (Wage Rationalization Act of 1989), which created the regional wage boards, the government was more considerate to the plight of Filipino workers.

“In 1987, for instance, the Administration then successfully raised the minimum wage three times during that same year, through two executive orders and a congressional act. This happened again in 1984, when minimum wages were raised thrice in succession,” he said.

Mata likewise pointed out that the P25/day increase that resulted in the P89/day national minimum wage in 1989, was far more decent because of its higher purchasing power then compared to the recent P15, plus the previous P10 COLA converted to basic pay, daily increase, ordered in the NCR, because of their greatly reduced purchasing power.

“It’s really time to do away with regional wage-fixing, since the original claim and intent that it will encourage industries to disperse to areas outside the Metro areas (such as Manila, Cebu and Davao) and other urban areas, has also not been realized,” Edralin urged.