The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) decried the Php 15 increase daily for minimum wage earners in Metro Manila saying that the amount is just enough to buy three small sized eggs in public market and barely enough to buy half kilo rice.

“It is very insulting that the wage hikes the Aquino government can grant to the workers are just enough for a pack of instant noodles and eggs. It is apparent that the government benchmark for improving workers’ lives is giving them coins for these two commonly affordable so-called food. The last time, the regional wage board approved only a P10 wage increase and that was on September 2013 implemented only on January 2014, ” Daisy Arago, CTUHR Executive Director said.

On March 18, the DOLE announced, that the Tripartite Regional Wage and Productivity Board (RTWPB-NCR)  issued Wage Oder No 19  approving a P15 wage hike for minimum wage earners in Metro Manila effective April.

DOLE noted that the decision was prompted by erosion of minimum wage, inflation rate, and capacity of employers and it has to do hard balancing between the workers needs and employers. It is a compromise, according to Malacanang.

The group however noted that in the 26 years of regionalized wage fixing, the government only exposed that there is in fact no ‘balancing’ between workers’ needs and employers’ interests. “It is always a one-sided compromise.  There was no time when the workers were somehow happy precisely because in every wage order issued, workers only get crumbs from the table of the rich whose profits had swollen increasing by almost 100 percent from 2009 to 2013, further widening the gap between the rich and the poor,” Arago explained.

The group also underlined that not only the amount is so revolting as trade unions centers had felt, it is also discriminatory as only 12% of workers in Metro Manila will benefit from it when in fact rising prices, transportations fares, services had affected every working people without discrimination.

“Employers are simply advised to revisit their pay structure for possible wage distortion, which is no guarantee that workers receiving a little over minimum wage can get a pay rise. Afterall,  DOLE said, the recent Wage Order is not mandatory for non-minimum wage earner,” Arago said.

The group also lambasted the divisive nature of the wage order and the regional wage system, “Even with this so measly amount, minimum wage earners in Metro Manila seem to be better off with their co-workers in the provinces whose wages are far below, that DOLE admitted to be below poverty threshold,” Arago said.

The group raised that Wage Order # 19 came as a little surprising, if not suspicious as to timing not because workers are not demanding and expecting substantial wage hike which is their right, but it came just in time when President Aquino’s popularity is sliding and workers are warming up in pushing for a national minimum wage of P16,000 per month.

“Whether or not the issuance was meant to temper the seething workers and public discontent over the current administration, we believe that there can be no acceptable justification for P15 wage hike in a time when the workers stomachs are grumbling from hunger and lack of nutrition. Similarly, it also calls an end to economic inequalities amongst workers perpetuated by regionalized wage fixing, as it is not only discriminatory and divisive, but it exposed them further to abuses and rights violations by taking advantage of their cheap labor,” Arago said.###