Struggle for liveable wage highlights need for more trade unions, labor leader says

By John Victor D. Ordoñez, Reporter

THE struggle to make minimum wages liveable points to the need for more trade unions, not just to negotiate for better pay but also to help workers seek better working conditions, the Federation of Free Workers said.

“We need to organize more workers (into) labor unions to negotiate collective bargaining agreements, support worker-friendly policies, and encourage employers to adopt better practices,” Jose G. Matula, federation president, said in a Viber message.

He was responding to a study by the research firm Picodi.com, which indicated that it would take Filipinos about 270 years to earn $1 million.

The Philippines ranked 89th out of 102 countries in the time it would take for an average worker to earn that amount, according to a report dated April 12.

Switzerland had the shortest time at 14 years and three months, based on the country’s minimum wage. Picodi said it summed up all the money an average worker in each country took home and ranked countries accordingly.

“Our workers’ goal of catching up to Switzerland or other countries that are ahead of us in terms of wages may seem like an impossible dream as the gap could be hundreds of years,” Mr. Matula said.

He said there is also a need for more representatives from labor in Congress who can champion worker rights and liveable wages.

Only 4.2% or 1,464 of establishments with 20 or more workers had registered unions in 2020, the Philippine Statistics Authority said in August.

Unemployment rose 4.3% month on month to 2.48 million in February. Job quality, a measure of how many employees are seeking more work, improved to 12.9% from 14.1% in January and 14% a year earlier.

Legislators have sought to pass laws to raise wages for workers in the private sector to help them deal with the rising prices of basic goods.

Last month, the Unity for Wage Increase Now labor coalition sought to raise the P570 daily minimum wage in Metro Manila to P1,100. The region’s wage board approved a P33 hike in the minimum wage last year.

Wage boards can only act on wage increase petitions a year after a region’s last wage order.

The minimum living wage of a family of five in Metro Manila should be at least P1,008, according to the think tank IBON Foundation.

“Workers should be involved in efforts to improve wages and work conditions not only in Metro Manila but all over the country,” Mr. Matula said.