Thursday, December 09, 2021

Editorial: In a tight spot

LABOR group United Pantaron Banana Workers Union (UPBWU) on April 6 filed a petition for a P100 daily wage increase for agricultural and non-agricultural workers in the region.

“Angayan ra ang paghatag og usbaw sa suholan karon tungod grabe ang pagsaka sa presyo sa mga palaliton sugod niadtong Disyembre 2020 nga dili na makapaigo ang kasamtangang minimum nga suholan namong mga trabahante (There is a need for a wage increase because the prices of the commodities rapidly increased beginning last December 2020 that the current minimum wage is not enough),” UPBWU president Jay Panague.

The Philippine Statistics Authority in Davao Region reported that inflation in Davao Region accelerated to 2.7 percent in February from 1.9 percent in January. The agency reported that "this is the highest inflation reported since June 2019."

"The increasing trend in the region’s inflation was primarily caused by the higher annual increment in the index of Transport from 2.3 percent to 4.5 percent," PSA-Davao said in a statement.

Other commodity groups that contributed to the upward trend of inflation in February were Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages, at 2.8 percent from 1.5 percent; Restaurant and Miscellaneous Goods and Services, at 2.7 percent from 2.2 percent; and Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas, and Other Fuels, at 2.6 percent from 2.4 percent.

PSA-Davao also reported that inflation for meat accelerated further to 18.7 percent from 11.5 percent in January 2021.

“Similarly, faster annual increases were reported in the indices of Vegetables, Corn, and Food Products, N.E.C. at 9.8 percent, 1.9 percent, and 2.4 percent, respectively,” PSA-Davao said.

PJ Dizon, spokesperson of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU)-Southern Mindanao Region, said in a SunStar Davao report on April 7 that the P396 minimum wage in the region has been devalued due to the continuing increase of the prices of commodities.

Based on the daily minimum wage rate approved by the National Wages and Productivity Commission, non-agriculture, industrial, commercial and retail, and service employing more than 10 workers are entitled to a minimum wage of P396, while agriculture workers are entitled to a P391 minimum wage. For retail or services industry employing not more than 10 workers, their employees are entitled to a minimum wage of P381.

However, an increase in the minimum wage for employees also means an added cost to the struggling businesses. Not only were they affected by the lockdowns but also low consumer confidence.

"Dili gwapo ang timing (It is not the right timing). Every time there is a wage increase, the normal response of a business would be to pass a portion of the increase on to the consumers. Unfortunately, karon walay mapasahan (we cannot pass it to our consumers), the battlecry being 'stay at home,'" Benjamin Lizada, Restaurant Owners Association of Davao City Inc. (RestoDC) president, told SunStar Davao.

He added that in the case of the restaurants, there are only a few people who dine out due to the threat of Covid-19. An increase at this time would further strain the already tight cash flow.

The Covid-19 has put us all in a tight spot. Both businesses and the working labor force have to deal with increasing prices of commodities and a limited cash flow.

The government will have to find strategies that will lower or put a cap on the price of commodities and those affecting the price increase of commodities. At least, by regulating the price, it could ease the pockets of our businesses and workers.

Labor groups, the government, and businesses will have to come up with a win-win solution that will allow businesses to continue to operate and at the same time provide some financial relief to the workers.


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