Scrapping minimum wage to expose workers to abouse, virtual slavery -- labor groups

MANILA, Philippines—Labor groups in the country cautioned government policy makers on Tuesday against lifting the minimum wage requirement, saying that doing so would expose workers to abuse.

Alan Tanjusay, spokesperson of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), said the minimum wage has been serving as the minimum standard to protect workers’ interests, and improve the quality of labor.

“If there is no minimum wage, workers will be very vulnerable to abuse and oppression,” said Tanjusay. “There has to be a standard such as the minimum wage. Otherwise, we will revert back to the age of slavery.”

Julius Cainglet, Federation of Free Workers (FFW)’s assistant vice president for Research, Communication, Networking and Project Development, on the other hand, said PIDS’ views were not new.

“The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have been saying that for years.  The think tank’s research seems wanting as it failed to consider the real state of workers,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a text message.

“The minimum wage is but a meager social protection for workers. Present minimum wage rates in Metro Manila could not even cover half the required income needed to afford your family a decent life. Besides, the minimum wage is much smaller in the provinces where a lot of investors set up manufacturing plants,” he said.

“Abolishing the minimum wage would only work if workers have a voice, that is if the majority of them are unionized. We know how employers do everything to bust unions.

Without a minimum wage to bank on and a union to fight for their rights to just wages, benefits and better working conditions, the government is opening the floodgates for even more exploitation of workers. We will end up with workers receiving alms and getting employed for no more than five months,” added Cainglet.

The FFW official urged the government to instead look at improving the environment for doing business in the country, which would significantly impact the capacity of businesses to employ more workers and pay wages.

“What is pushing down employment is the high cost of doing business. For one, the country’s power rates are the highest in Asia. Add the fact that there are mounting fees, permits and impossible requirements when applying for a new business or renewing permits for the same. It is a nightmare in fact,” said Cainglet.

“The FFW believes that this is what curtails employment more and not the minimum wage. We would want to abolish the wage boards for the right reasons like for being insensitive to the needs of workers. But removing the minimum wage right now will only deprive workers even more of their just share in the country’s economic growth,” he added.


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