Business group rejects higher salaries as workers' calls mount

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 21) — The labor sector is demanding a big-time increase in daily wages, saying the current ₱537 rate is not enough for Filipinos to get by.

Members of the Kilusang Mayo Uno mounted a protest action outside Mega Q Mart in Quezon City on Thursday to push for their call to raise daily minimum wages to ₱750 nationwide, especially as prices of basic goods have been surging.

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The highest minimum wage is in Metro Manila, but that was last adjusted in November 2018 -– more than a year prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Workers in Cagayan Valley were the last to receive an increase in the minimum daily salary, which was adjusted in March last year to ₱345-₱370 depending on the industry sector.

KMU's petition has been pending before the Metro Manila wage board since November 2019.

Jerome Adonis, the group's secretary general, said a family of five now needs about ₱1,000 per day to live comfortably.

The Employers Confederation of the Philippines, however, said they cannot afford to pay higher salaries at this time.

"'Yung mga call for increase na ₱750 a day, they need a reality check," ECOP chairman Edgardo Lacson said in a phone interview. "That is not justified at this moment. (It's) very untimely and it will create more problems."

The business executive said small and medium enterprises, which comprise 99% of the economy, are the hardest hit by the coronavirus crisis. Ten months since the lockdowns started, even big businesses bleeding dry.

He pointed out that even a company as established as Makati Shangri-La was forced to a temporary shutdown.

"Our request is for our partners in the labor movement to consider the plight of businesses," Lacson added, noting that firms that remain open may run out of cash if they cover higher salaries and benefits.

The economy crashed by 10% as of September 2020, marking the country's first recession in over two decades. Some 3.8 million Filipinos were jobless as of October, or nearly 2 million jobs lost compared to the prior year.

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