Trade Union Congress of the Philippines - TUCP

TUCP President and House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Raymond Democrito C. Mendoza called on Congress to swiftly pass this urgent, actionable, and reasonable House Bill No. 7871 or the Wage Recovery Act that seeks to legislate an across-the-board ₱150 wage increase for all workers in the private sector. “As the House of the People, let us walk the talk of inclusive growth and development. Through weekly marathon hearings, let us speak truth to power and end the big lie peddled by employers and economic managers that a legislated wage hike only spells doom to the very people we will and should help through this landmark measure,” underscored Deputy Speaker Mendoza.

“The House of the People should stand in solidarity with Filipino workers and their families because our society and our fast-growing economy will benefit from higher wages boosting consumer demand, pump-priming the local economy, and paving the way for equity and prosperity,” explained Deputy Speaker Mendoza. The TUCP envisions a new Philippines that honors the sacrifices made by workers who have long toiled to build Southeast Asia’s fastest-growing economy, thus the resounding call to action: TAAS-SAHOD ISABATAS TUNGO SA BAGONG PILIPINAS!

During the second hearing of the House Committee on Labor and Employment last Wednesday, 13 March 2024, a diverse array of esteemed voices from academia, civil society, informal sector, economists, and minimum wage earners shed light on the imperative of raising workers’ wages. They shared compelling testimonies and expert insights in support of the TUCP’s proposed ₱150 legislated wage hike. In solidarity with Filipino workers and their families, they deftly dismantled the opposition spearheaded by big business who cloaked their objections under the guise of concern for MSMEs, huge informal economy, and national economic stability which are merely veils for their insatiable greed for hoarding profit and wealth.

Championing the plight of minimum wage earners as a minimum wage earner herself, Margarita Refaldo of the Association of Minimum Wage Earners delivered a poignant appeal to the House Committee on Labor and Employment chaired by Rep. Fidel Nograles that they are not asking for much, but for what is only unequivocally right and just for each and every minimum wage earner who do honest hard work and contribute to the growth of our economy: “Hindi naman po kami humihingi ng malaki at hindi naman kami hihingi ng sobra. Ang hinihingi lang po namin bilang mga manggagawa na siyang nagtataas ng ekonomiya ng ating bansa ay makakabuhay para po para sa sweldo na masasabi natin na magkaroon ng maayos at disenteng pamumuhay ang mga simpleng workers.”

Highlighting the alarming reality where minimum wages struggle to keep pace, or worse, fail to keep up with the relentless surge in the cost of living, Dr. Mahar Mangahas, President of the Social Weather Stations (SWS), who earned his doctorate in economics under the esteemed tutelage of the 1976 Nobel laureate in Economics, Milton Friedman, delivered a scathing indictment of the current minimum wage system: “the minimum wage system is not working because the real wages are stagnant and not increasing.” In a thought-provoking column, Mangahas boldly contended: “It’s a shame that so many businessmen talk of higher wages as a handicap to development. To me, higher wages are a sign of economic success that we should all target to achieve.”

Emmanuel Leyco, another seasoned economist who previously held prestigious positions such as University President of Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Manila (PLM) and Undersecretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), vehemently refuted the fallacious argument that wage hikes kill businesses and jobs by declaring that “there is no record of closures because of wage increases. There are records of closures not because the wages increased, but because the competitiveness of certain businesses, simply, is not sustainable anymore.” Leyco further dissected the roots of inflation, demolishing the notion that it is driven by labor cost: “Tumaas po itong inflation hindi dahil sa cost of labor. Tumaas po ito kasi iyong production capacity ng ating ekonomiya ay hindi nakasabay sa pagbukas ng demand ng ating ekonomiya.”

Shattering the overused yet unfounded scaremongering of higher wages driving higher unemployment and higher prices, Dr. Benjamin Velasco of UP School of Labor and Industrial Relations (SOLAIR) unveiled their seminal research which shows “that wage increases have no impact on employment” and that “given the right set of policies we can achieve the goal of wage recovery for workers and low unemployment.” Their comprehensive analysis exposed that the purported link between wage hikes and price hikes is grossly exaggerated, if not entirely fallacious. Contrary to popular belief, their research discovered that “the impact of wage increases on inflation is very small, in fact, insignificant” because inflation stems from “cost-related factors and supply imbalances,” such as energy costs.

According to the research of the Ateneo Policy Center, under the guidance of former Ateneo School of Governance (ASOG) Dean Ronald U. Mendoza, “it would require a daily budget of around ₱693.30 to be able to afford the main ingredients required to eat the Pinggang Pinoy cheapest healthy plate.” However, the highest daily minimum wage in the country stands at a mere ₱610 in NCR and plunges as low as ₱361 in BARMM. Although the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC) argues that only a minority of regional minimum wages are below the poverty threshold, Research Associate Gabrielle Mendoza of the Ateneo Policy Center states that the current daily minimum wage is “clearly inadequate” to satisfy the government-prescribed daily healthy food guide called ‘Pinggang Pinoy’ which propels and perpetuates pandemic-level of poverty, hunger, and stunting among Filipinos, particularly children.

Denouncing the moral bankruptcy of corporate and economic giants who exploit and sow division between formal and informal workers, Flora Asiddao Santos of the Metro Manila Vendors Alliance (MMVA) stated: “Kami ay naniniwala na ang hinihingi ng uring manggagawa sa pormal ay makatarungan. Kung mataas ang kita nila, tataas ang kanilang purchasing power, at tataas rin ang aming kita,” citing their own experience of surge in sales during holiday season when workers receive their Christmas bonus and 13th month pay.

Demanding an immediate cessation to the insidious practice of pitting workers against MSMEs, Dr. Marivic Raquiza of UP National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG), who specialized in poverty and inequality, urged all sectors to unite in addressing and ending the tale of two Philippines where impoverished workers pour their blood, sweat, and tears to drive high labor productivity, only to find themselves sinking deeper into the vicious cycle of poverty, while the wealthiest elite soar to unprecedented riches.

Calling for the end of the archaic half-century policy of exploiting cheap labor to lure investments—an epic failed policy that has undeniably corroded our people’s quality of life and undermined our nation’s global competitiveness—Professor Emeritus Dr. Rene Ofreneo of UP-SOLAIR is confident that the proposed legislated wage hike of ₱150 is “doable” and imperative, given the astronomical multi-billion and nearly trillion profits of big businesses.

“I, therefore, urge all my colleagues in the House of Representatives to heed our people’s clarion call: Enough is enough! End poverty wages and cheap labor! Together, let us make history: ₱150 taas-sahod, isabatas sa Bagong Pilipinas! The Filipino demands and deserves a raise! The Philippines deserves a raise!,” emphasized Deputy Speaker Mendoza.

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