MEMBERS of the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) in Western Visayas have agreed to proceed with the deliberation on the issue of wages in their next meeting on August 26, 2021.
Labor representative Wennie Sancho, who attended the Wage Board regular virtual meeting on August 12, said he decided to push through with the deliberations since there were no positive indicators that a wage adjustment could be granted basing on the executive summary of the consultations conducted by the RTWPB in various parts of the region.
Sancho said it is the pandemic that has made it very difficult to advance the struggle for a wage increase or any form of amelioration.
"It is better to decide now than to prolong the agony of the workers by making them wait on the shores of nowhere," he said, adding that "let us not give them a false dawn of hope amid the pandemic."
Sancho is also the secretary-general of Negros Occidental-based labor group General Alliance of Workers Associations (Gawa).
He lamented that due to massive unemployment caused by the closures of business establishments, job preservation rather than increase in wages became the rallying point of management in opposing wage hikes for the sake of economic survival.
But this "wage freeze" scheme will wreak havoc on the economic lives of the workers who are already suffering from the erosion of their purchasing power and diminution in wages and benefits, the labor leader said.
Based on their calculation, the erosion of the purchasing power is pegged at P93.74 per day.
The figure is about 23 to 24 percent of the P395 daily minimum wage for the workers in the commercial and industrial sectors.
On the other hand, the unabated increases in the prices of basic goods and services are believed to have further reduced the real wage of the workers.
Sancho said most workers are like beggars, waiting for alms from the government because their income has been reduced to starvation wages.
The workers' situation is dismal, they are financially incapacitated, he said.
Basing on the Regional Economic Profile issued by the Philippine Statistics Authority, the nominal daily wage of a worker is P395 per day.
Sancho, however, said the real wage is only is P301.26 because the purchasing power of the peso is P0.76 basing on the consumer price index (CPI) of P131.1 as of July 2021.
"It means that a worker is losing P93.74 per day or P2,437 in 26 working days. The problem is that we cannot restore the lost purchasing power of P93.74 per day without wage adjustment," he said, adding that the labor sector does not intend to submit a position paper.
Gawa said words are not enough to narrate the pain and sufferings of the workers amid the pandemic, especially if their appeal would fall on deaf ears.
"It is impossible to write the anguish and distress in the heart of a worker," the labor group said.
Its official asked, "how can we understand that empty look in his eyes if there is no food on the table for his hungry children?"
"His soul seethes with anger and bitterness on this added form of injustice inflicted to his family," he added.