“If the objective is to increase the capacity of workers and their families to weather economic woes, an increase of P22 a day at this point is simply too little, too late,” Akbayan Representative Walden Bello said on Tuesday morning following the announcement of a P22-increase in minimum wage earners’ cost of living allowance (COLA).

Since the start of the year, fuel price inflation stands at a whopping 10.19 per cent. It is followed by transportation and communication prices at 7.28 per cent, while inflation of food prices has been recorded at 4.03 per cent.

According to Bello, the sky-rocketing prices of basic commodities threaten to push millions of families propped up by minimum wage earners across the poverty threshold.

“Barya lang ang P22 sa harap ng nagtataasang presyo ng mga bilihin. Kulang ‘yan para tustusan ang pangangailangan ng mga kababayan natin, at lalo silang maghihirap kung ‘yan lang ang matatanggap nila,” Bello added

Abolish regional wage boards

Bello also aired the call to abolish regional wage boards.

“The track record speaks for itself – slow responses to crisis, bare-minimum increases on wage and non-wage benefits,” Bello pointed out. “Regional wage boards have been used as a means to consolidate the power of employers against labor, which has rendered its existence antithetic to its main purpose – to empower workers especially when it comes to the determination of wages.”

The Akbayan lawmaker proposed instead that wages to be synchronized according to industry line.

“Wage setting would be up to the National Wage and Productivity Commission. Akbayan further proposes that wages be set according to industry line,” Bello explained.  “Wage adjustments would then be made according to the over-all state of the economy and inclusive of industry considerations. This way, wages become more effective and efficient.”

Bello pointed out that it is time to make the economy pro-labor, and that national development lies also in improving the wages of workers.

“Workers are the backbone of the economy – they are both part of the production process and the consumer base,” said. “The idea is to provide workers greater compensation so that the economy’s middle-class consumer base expands and becomes more robust. With higher wages, families would be able to meet their daily needs despite inflation. All in all, this makes for a happier, more satisfied workforce, which would improve productivity tremendously.”

“At a time of crisis, it is the government’s responsibility to compel employers to increase wages and provide additional benefits to meet rising costs of living and ensure that workers and their families are able to maintain a dignified life,” Bello concluded.