Tell it to SunStar: Hundreds of MEZ workers call for wage hike

Tell it to SunStar.
Tell it to SunStar.SunStar file photo

By Partido ng Manggagawa Cebu spokesman Dennis Derige

Some 300 workers from garment and electronics factories in the Mactan Economic Zone (MEZ) gathered on Sunday, April 7, 2024, to call for a wage hike. Lapu-Lapu City Councilor Tino Aying joined the assembly, listened to the workers’ sentiments and promised to relay the wage hike demand to Lapu-Lapu City Lone District Rep. Cindi Chan.

The workers expressed support for the pending P150 across-the-board salary increase bill in the House of Representatives. Earlier, the Senate approved a P100 hike in minimum wages.

The Mepz (Mactan Export Processing Zone) Workers Alliance spearheaded the assembly along with the labor groups Sentro and Partido Manggagawa in a basketball court in Barangay Buaya, Lapu-Lapu City. The gathering also resolved to mobilize thousands of workers in the upcoming Labor Day commemoration. The traditional Labor Day rally will highlight the demand for a wage hike along with opposition to Charter change with the slogan of “Sahod Itaas, Chacha I-atras” and “Chicha hindi chacha.”

Councilor Aying, a former union president, stated that he will do everything in his capacity to assist the campaign for the passage of the legislated wage hike.

Another highlight of the assembly was the speech of Erlinda Bardenas, a garment worker, wherein she said that “As a solo parent, my minimum wage is not enough to support my family’s needs. Therefore, I am forced to go into debt in order to make ends meet. This is the experience of the majority of Mepz workers. We survive through taking out loans with our ATMs as collateral. Even as we make do with poverty wages, we know that our employers and the global brands we produce for, wallow in so much profit from our labor!”

Speakers refuted the doomsday narrative of employers that a salary hike will lead to an economic catastrophe, factory closures and job losses. Ecozone firms and global brands are very profitable. Labor productivity in Mepz (now called MEZ) factories is such that it takes only minutes of work for workers to create the value of their wages. This is mirrored in the macro level where labor productivity has risen by 50 percent from 2001 to 2016 but real wages remain stagnant. So firms are in no danger of being affected by a P150 wage recovery. P150 is not even a real wage hike but just a wage recovery demand.


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