Wage hike

For businesses and labor officials, the P55 to P110 wage increase in Western Visayas (if approved by the National Wages and Productivity Commission) is just enough to keep businesses afloat while heeding the labor sector’s call for higher pay amid growing inflation and runaway increases in fuel prices.

But for the militant sector of the working class, the increase is stingy at best.

Labor group Partido Manggagawa said that micro, small, and medium enterprises with 10 workers, will only incur an additional P330 in daily wage costs or P8,580 in monthly labor expenses which translates to a mere 0.3% of its P3 million asset size. PM asserts that the wage increase will not necessarily bankrupt businesses. What imperils their viability is the lack of market because of low consumption brought about by low or even lack of income.

The labor group believes that increasing incomes will bode well for businesses as these will increase the purchasing power of workers who are also the consumers of the capitalist system.

From 2001 to 2016, the economy doubled in size and productivity increased by 50% but real wages remained stagnant. The pie became larger, but the slice of workers remained the same. Employers greedily monopolized all the new wealth produced by the blood and sweat of workers, PM national chair Rene Magtubo asserts.

Magtubo may have a point, especially in the light of increases in the prices of some basic goods, as reported by the Department of Trade and Industry.

In a press release, the DTI said 136 of the 218 Stock Keeping Units retained their January 2022 prices while prices of 82 basic necessities and prime commodities (BNPCs) will go up.

These products include bread, canned fish, potable water in bottles and containers, processed milk, locally manufactured instant noodles, coffee, salt, laundry soap, detergent, candles, flour, processed and canned pork, processed and canned beef, vinegar, fish sauce (patis), soy sauce, toilet soap, and batteries. The guide includes additional SKUs such as Bareta Bar White (360g) and Bareta Bar FabCon (360g).

While prices of 86% or 71 out of the 82 SKUs adjusted their prices from 2% to 10%, the price increase is still less than the global price movement of raw materials, the DTI said.

To illustrate, the prices of major raw materials like tamban (for canned fish products), mechanically deboned meat (for processed meat products), buttermilk (for processed milk), and palm oil (for toilet paper and instant noodles) increased by 0.56% to 32.14%. Additionally, fuel prices went up by 28.84%.

The wage increase in Western Visayas may be a far cry from the P750 hike sought by a labor group in Bacolod City, but there are still some fears that it could lead to closure of businesses amid the pandemic.

But DOLE regional director Sixto Rodriguez Jr. assured that closures and retrenchment of businesses are more of serious business losses and not the issuance of a wage order.

The labor sector will have to make do with what is granted by authorities, but the erratic movement of oil prices and the consequent increase in prices of goods will certainly bolster their argument for better pay.