A SENATOR on Sunday, the observance of Labor Day, pushed for the speedy review of petitions to raise regional minimum wage rates amid the rising cost of living in the past three years due mainly to fuel price surges and disruptions in food supply movement.
The Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) had announced in March that it will consider the petitions filed yet nothing has changed since then, said Senator Ana Theresia “Risa” N. Hontiveros-Baraquel, who is running for reelection on May 9.
Currently, the minimum wage in the capital region is P537 per day, already the highest among 17 regions in the country.
“What’s taking so long? Any delay in issuing the decision on minimum wage can cause hunger or loss of hope for workers seeking to rise above their numerous dues,” she said in a mix of English and Filipino in a statement.
The take-home pay of minimum wage earners has long been overtaken by the rising cost of food, transportation, public utilities, among other basic essentials, she added.
The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), the country’s largest group of labor federations, had filed wage hike petitions in the National Capital Region and several other regions.
They noted that in Metro Manila, the current monthly minimum wage of P13,962 is “far below” the P16,625.00 a month poverty threshold for a family of five.
Citing a study from the Ateneo Policy Center, the group said that daily food requirement amounts to P734 for a family of four.
Ms. Hontiveros also called out the labor department for its inability to enforce minimum wage mandates efficiently, citing the 2018 Labor Force survey which showed that one of four employed workers received less than the minimum wage.
“DOLE should report on the process of enforcing the implementation of past minimum wages,” she said.
Meanwhile, Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, who is also seeking reelection, vowed to pursue measures that will institutionalize tax cuts for work-from-home employees, additional benefits to construction workers, and condoning penalties for unpaid Social Security System (SSS) contributions of household employers.
These will help alleviate the financial concerns of workers, he said, especially for daily wage earners.
Mr. Gatchalian cited three bills currently pending in the Senate committee which he aims to refile and push for if he wins another term.
These are: Senate Bill (SB) 1706 or the Tax Incentives for Individuals on a Work-from-home or Telecommuting Program, which he co-authored, proposes a reduction of P25 from the taxable income for every hour of work of telecommuting employees; SB 741 or the Construction Workers Insurance Act; and SB 744 or the Domestic Workers Act that includes a provision on the condonation of penalties for unpaid SSS contributions of household employers.
“The fundamental precept of social justice is that ‘those who have less in life must have more in law’,” Mr. Gatchalian said.
“If we can extend the benefits of workers, we can raise their standard of living,” he added. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan