Tell it to SunStar: Wage hike deliberations should tackle social justice

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

By Center for Trade Union and Human Rights

Statements coming out of deliberations on the wage hike bills at the House of Representatives show a disregard for the situation of the country’s workers and social justice.

Filipino workers have only received meager wage increases since 1989, when the country’s regional wage boards were created. This contrasts with the numerous times that the prices of basic commodities and fees for basic services have increased significantly.

The meager wage increases since 1989 also contrasts with the many times that the biggest foreign and local employers have increased their profits and wealth big-time. Workers’ productivity has also continuously increased since 1989.

Current HOR (House of Representatives) and Senate deliberations on the wage hike bills are historic, as previous wage hike bills did not go this far. This is a positive development as the world currently reels from a cost-of-living crisis, and the Philippines is being hit hard.

Efforts to legislate a wage hike for the country’s minimum wage earners in the private sector is a necessary corrective to the wage boards’ inability to go beyond granting meager wage increases. Filipino workers badly need a significant wage increase now.

Social justice, according to the International Labor Organization, is an aspiration that all humans, irrespective of social or economic standing, have the right to enjoy “material well-being” and “spiritual development” in “conditions of freedom and dignity, of economic security and equal opportunity.” It is based on the principle of human dignity, and rejects the belief that humans are mere commodities.

Social justice means that the condition, rights and dignity of Filipino workers must be considered in discussions about a wage hike. Filipino workers have been suffering from meager wage hikes for too long, despite working hard for too long. Now is the time for them to have a better standard of living, to move closer to a living wage, which is their Constitutionally guaranteed right.

Employers’ groups, some economists and some legislators talk as if a wage hike is just an issue of computations that equals layoffs and high prices. We echo Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri: A wage hike will not result in these if only employers, especially the biggest ones, will “moderate the greed” and absorb the wage hike in their profits and wealth.

Contrary to fear-mongering, workers in the informal economy will benefit from a wage hike, as private sector workers will have a greater purchasing power to buy their products and pay for their services.

Across the decades, labor cost has decreased as a portion of production costs, even for the country’s micro, small and medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs). If employers’ groups, economists and legislators really want to help the country’s MSMEs, they should address the many issues that hurt their businesses: high water and power rates, high taxes, corruption and red tape, poor infrastructure, heavy traffic, and lack of affordable loans.


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