Struggling to make both ends meet with the minimum wage

Amid the soaring prices of basic commodities, what could the meager P404 ($9.39) minimum wage provide for a family of four?

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA –Alma Honrado, 39, a factory worker for 11 years, walks to work at Bleustar Manufacturing and Marketing Corporation (BMMC). The factory of BMMC, the maker of Advan boots and shoes, inside the RMT compound in Muntinlupa City is less than one kilometer away from her house in San Antonio, San Pedro, Laguna.

“Walking my way to work is fine with me. I do not only save money, I also exercise,” Honrado said, adding that the P320 ($7.44) she saves monthly from jeepney fare is added to the family’s food budget.

Honrado is among the thousands of minimum wage earners in the country who have been calling for a P125 increase in the daily minimum wage, which the government has refused to give.

Not Enough

Amid the soaring prices of basic commodities, what could the meager P404 ($9.39) minimum wage provide for a family of four? Honrado’s husband is a welder, whose work is irregular. They have two children: a nine-year old and a three-year old.

Honrado’s take home pay of P4,572 ($106) every fifteen days is allocated for:

Electricity – P1,300 ($30.23)
Water – P198
House Rent – P 2,200 ($51.16)
Food – P3,000 ($69.76)
Milk – P198
Sugar – P60
Total – 5,956 ($138.51)

A minimum wage earner shares how difficult it is to make ends meet.

“I spend P200 a day for our food, but sometimes it’s not enough,” Honrado said. She often buys fish and vegetables. Whenever she could buy a kilo of meat, it would suffice for a day until the next morning. A kilo of meat ranges from P190 ($4.41) to P195 ($4.53) per kilo, which is her budget for a day, that is why she would rather buy fish, which is cheaper.

She also buys milk for her three-year old child for P198 ($4.6) and sugar for P60 ($1.39) per kilo. This list does not yet include the school-related expenses of her nine-year-old who is about to enter Grade 4 in the local public school.

Worse, Honrado, like the rest of her co-workers do not receive their salary on time. She was supposed to receive her salary last April 16, but it was delayed again, she said. On that day, during Bulatlat’s interview with Honrado, the only money she had was P120 ($2.8).

“Sometimes, our salary is delayed for three to four days,” Honrado said. To make both ends meet, especially when her salary is delayed, Honrado banks on the P450 ($10.46) a day her husband earns, if and when he has contractual jobs.

Because her salary is not sufficient, Honrado incurred debts from her co-workers. Sometimes, she said, her take home pay would just go to paying her debts. “Sometimes when I really have no money, I loan money from persons who charge six to 10 percent interest. Then my next salary would just be enough to pay my debts so I have to loan again for our expenses.”

Her husband’s salary, on the other hand, which comes every week – if he has a job order – is spent on paying monthly bills, for food, or for the children’s vitamins.

More Deductions

Honrado said they are also required to take a “forced leave.” “Every last week of the month, the company tells us not to come to work because, the company says, there are no materials available and we do not have anything to work on.”

Honrado said that months after they won the union struggle in September 2008, their salary was delayed. In January 2011, the practice of forced leave began. The forced leave lasted for up to four days. “We’re lucky if we complete 20 days of work, then we would get almost P10,000 ($232) a month. But since January, we work less days and receive less than P10,000,” said Honrado.

Not only that, Honrado said the company is deducting their contributions for SSS, Pag-ibig, Philhealth and others worth almost P500 ($11.62) but their contributions were only going to the pockets of the company owner. “The company does not remit our SSS premium,” Honrado said.

On May 1, Honrado and her co-workers at the BMCC, will join the rallies to reiterate their call for wage increase and for their labor rights. ()

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