Time to abolish regional wage boards—labor group

Saying that the regional wage boards have effectively prevented the resumption of the legislation of national minimum wages for almost 30 years now, the SENTRO NG MGA NAGKAKAISA AT PROGRESIBONG MANGGAGAWA (SENTRO) is renewing its call for their abolition!

According to Daniel Edralin, SENTRO Vice-Chairperson for the Private Sector, the said wage boards had not, and will never, issue adequate adjustments in the minimum wages because these 7-member boards are dominated employers, 2 from the private sector, and 3 from agencies of the Government, itself the largest employer in the country.

“What can the remaining 2 union representatives do during board deliberations and decision-making when the total 5 private and Government employer representatives agree to continue enforcing the National Government’s cheap labor policy?” Edralin asked.

“The Government actually decides on the amounts of minimum wage raises with its 3 representatives (from DTI, NEDA and DOLE) needing only one more vote, which most of the time come from the 2 employers, who in turn will agree only to the lowest amount possible,” he related from experience.

Edralin also lambasted the Government’s cheap labor policy, which is primarily the reason for the freeze in real wages in the past almost three decades.

He noted that such low wage policy was premised on its helping attract foreign investors, and making local businesses globally competitive. “But what is really needed is for Government to do away with this cheap wage policy, and instead formulate a real Industrial Policy, not just have road maps submitted by favored employers to promote their businesses,” Edralin added.

SENTRO Secretary-General Josua Mata, in turn, recalled that prior to the enactment of RA 6727 (Wage Rationalization Act of 1989), which created the regional wage boards, the Government was more considerate to the plight of Filipino workers.

“In 1987, for instance, the Administration then successfully raised the minimum wage three times during that same year, through two executive orders and a congressional act. This happened again in 1984, when minimum wages were raised thrice in succession,” said Mata.

Mata likewise pointed out that the P25/day increase that resulted in the P89/day national minimum wage in 1989, was far more decent (because of its higher purchasing power then) compared to the recent P15, plus the previous P10 COLA converted to basic pay, daily increase, ordered in the NCR, because of their greatly reduced purchasing power.

Both SENTRO leaders further assailed the Government representatives’ natural employer-like inclination to allow only the smallest minimum wage adjustments to private sector workers, anticipating that such higher increases will then be used as basis by public sector workers to demand for similar increases as well.

“It’s really time to do away with regional wage-fixing, since the original claim and intent that it will encourage industries to disperse to areas outside the Metro areas (such as Manila, Cebu and Davao) and other urban areas, has also not been realized,” Edralin urged. Most businesses still concentrate in these urban centers where the bulk of their markets or customers are, intensifying the internal migration to urban centers, and worsening the overcrowding there,” he emphasized.

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