Wage hikes low, more aid needed, group says

LAMENTING that the recently-approved minimum wage hikes are “not enough,” labor group Federation of Free Workers (FFW) called on the government to release more subsidies or loans to small businesses and displaced workers.

FFW President Jose “Sonny” G. Matula said through a statement issued by the group last Sunday that the increases in minimum wages approved by several Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Boards are insufficient to fulfill the needs of Filipino workers. Still, the lawyer said this could somehow help cushion the impact of soaring inflation.

Several regions with approved minimum wage hikes include: National Capital Region with an additional P33, Soccsksargen (South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos) with P32, Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan) with P35 and Western Visayas with P55 to P110.

Ang mga increases na ito ay hindi sapat na dagdag sa pangangailangan ng manggagawang Pilipino,” Matula was quoted in the statement as saying. “Subalit makakatulong ito pantawid para panagot sa pagbaba ng purchasing power dahil sa inflation, pagtaas ng pamasahe at  presyo ng mga pangunahing bilihin. [These increases would add little to help Filipino workers meet their needs; but these will help bridge the gap in purchasing power due to inflation, rising fares and commodity prices.]”

Inflation in April hit 4.9 percent, the highest since 5.2 percent recorded in December 2018. Latest forecasts from monetary authorities point to inflation hitting an average of 4.6 percent for this year, from the previous forecast of 4.3 percent. This is a higher deviation from the ceiling of the government’s target for the year of keeping inflation within the 2-percent to 4-percent band.

Matula also urged the government to roll out a P100-billion stimulus package for the provision of subsidies or loans to micro, small, and medium enterprises and to workers who lost their jobs.

Apart from this, the labor group emphasized the need to pass a law institutionalizing a national minimum wage.

Meanwhile, FFW is urging other regional wage boards to speedily promulgate new wage increases in their respective jurisdictions.

“Kailangan pa rin ang batas para sa pambansang minimum wage para walang diskriminasyon at di mahirap ang pagpatupad ng minimum wage law. [A law for the national minimum wage is still needed to quash discrimination and make it easy to apply a minimum wage],” Matula said.