LABOR groups lauded the Senate move toward a legislated nationwide P100 daily minimum wage increase as a step forward in fulfilling workers’ long-standing clamor for a uniform minimum wage system throughout the country.

“This Senate action renews hope among workers and their unions for a standardized wage increase across the country, paving the way for the potential establishment of a singular national minimum wage in the coming days. It highlights a pivotal concern within our present economic structure,” the joint statement of Nagkaisa Labor Coalition (Nagkaisa) and Federation of Free Workers (FFW) said

A standardized wage structure, according to the labor groups, should be put in place as workers all over the country have the same needs regardless of their regional locations.

Also, the labor groups pointed out that the present setup where minimum wage determination is done by the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Boards (RTWPB) has unintentionally created significant disparities and discrimination among workers.

Republic Act 6727, or the “Wage Rationalization Act,” paved the way for the establishment of RTWPB in each of the 16 regions of the country. The intent of the law is to foster economic balance through regional minimum wages.

“This has not only complicated the wage structure but also caused confusion in its application, making it difficult for workers to stay informed of the varying minimum wages within even a single region or province,” they said.

The labor groups also believed that the current wage setup has further exacerbated discrimination against workers in provincial and rural areas, especially those in agriculture, undermining the dignity of numerous Filipino workers and driving mass migration towards Metro Manila in search of higher wages.

“This migration has contributed to the overburdening of the national capital with traffic congestion, overpopulation, and strained resources,” they said.

According to the groups, the present minimum wage law has created poverty wages for many workers. All the minimum wages around the country are below the poverty threshold for a family of 5.

They urged Congress to review and amend the regional wage fixing mechanism instituted under RA 6727 aimed at satisfying the constitutional mandate of granting workers a living wage.

DoLE ready to assist

Meanwhile, Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma said that the Labor department is ready to provide the technical inputs and other needed information in the Senate deliberations.

He stressed the importance of striking a balance between the needs of the workers and the financial capability of businesses, saying that the bottom line is to ensure the continuity of jobs and operations of industries.

Laguesma emphasized that the role of DoLE is to implement and use laws and mechanisms in responding to calls for an increase in wages.

“The DoLE respects Congress’ power to legislate and is always prepared to provide technical inputs based on the agency’s institutional experience in implementing Republic Act 6727, the current law on minimum-wage fixing, which created the RTWPB to set minimum wage rates at the regional level,” he said.

To date, 15 of the 16 RTWPBs have issued wage orders increasing the regional minimum wage since July 2023. Only RTWPB XI or the Davao Region has yet to issue a wage order in the ongoing wage round, though it is in the process of completing the wage determination process for having conducted public consultations as well as a public hearing on Feb. 7, 2024.

Around 4.1 million minimum wage earners directly benefited from the wage increases in the 15 regions where wage orders have been issued. About 8.1 million full-time wage and salary workers earning above the minimum wage are expected to benefit from the correction of wage distortions.