Former senator Jinggoy Estrada on Friday said the country’s regional wage boards should expedite the study on possible wage increases amid the increases in the prices of fuel, food and other basic necessities.
Estrada said that while he appreciates the instruction of Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to study the wage hike, the target of late April “is a bit too late.”
“Even before the pandemic, the average minimum wage of workers is already insufficient to make ends meet. With the spike in global crude oil prices due to Russia’s attack on Ukraine, the low take home pay of workers is now a critical problem,” Estrada said in a statement.
Estrada, who is seeking a fresh Senate term under the UniTeam Alliance senatorial slate, said he is most concerned with the plight of transport workers, particularly jeepney drivers, who are taking the brunt of the oil price increases.
“Unable to pass on the high cost of fuel to passengers, jeepney drivers often have very little or no take home pay at all,” he explained.
If he wins in the upcoming May 2022 elections, Estrada said he will prioritize measures to make drivers of public utility vehicles receive regular salaries instead of relying on the boundary system.
He said whenever fuel prices are skyrocketing, drivers bear the brunt of its effects while the boundary received by operators remains the same.
“The old system has brought so much misery to Filipino drivers. It’s time to change it,” he stressed.
Estrada said he also plans to introduce reforms to the Wage Rationalization Act, which placed the responsibility of setting the minimum wage with the 17 regional wage boards.
“The national government should have more flexibility in adjusting the basic pay of ordinary workers especially in times of crises or emergencies,” said Estrada, a former chair of the Senate labor committee.