Workers slam P15 wage hike as ‘one-sided’, push for P16,000 minimum wage

Bulatlat File Photo: Workers march to Mendiola, Nov 30, 2014
Bulatlat File Photo: Workers march to Mendiola, Nov 30, 2014

The P16,000 ($357.60) national minimum wages represent only a 17-percent cut in profit, and it would not necessarily cause inflation if the establishments bore the dip in profit instead of passing it on to prices of their products or services. – Ibon Foundation

By MARYA SALAMAT
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Workers affiliated with Kilusang Mayo Uno denounced the “attacks on minimum wage” which they said the recent P15 ($0.34) minimum wage hike for workers in Metro Manila has highlighted. The government-formed Trade Union Congress of the Philippines had announced plans to appeal the amount, but the KMU said “Making an appeal before the wage boards in the hope they will approve a significant wage hike is like trying to squeeze blood from a stone.”

Lito Ustarez, KMU vice-chairperson, said an appeal is “pointless.” Their group burned the other day, in front of the national headquarters of the Labor department, a representation of the varying wage levels across the country. He invited all labor groups to support instead their calls for the abolition of the Regional Wage Boards and the implementation of a National Minimum Wage of P16,000 ($357.60) monthly. This amount is less than half the Family Living Wage, or the amount needed daily by an average-sized Filipino family to live decently based on last year’s prices.

“There is no minimum wage in the country right now largely because of the wage boards,” Ustarez said. No thanks to wage-setting per region, district and areas, he added, the Philippines has over a thousand minimum wage rates now.

On top of that, said Ustarez, “the regionalization of wages has worsened violations of even the legally-mandated minimum wage levels.” Citing figures released by the National Statistics Office Labor Force Survey 22 years into wage regionalization, Ustarez said 46 per cent of workers in the country receive wages less than the mandated minimum. The minimum wage in Metro Manila is highest in comparison to other regions, but it is less than half the Family Living wage.

P15 wage hike is no compromise

Coming at the wake of President Benigno Noynoy Aquino III’s slipping popularity as he struggles to extricate himself from the Mamasapano fiasco and evade calls for his resignation, the decision of the labor department to grant Metro Manila minimum wage earners a P15 ($0.34) hike came too little too late, according to statements from various workers groups.

Non-government thinktank Ibon Foundation says it is meaningless as the new minimum wage is only two-fifths (44%) of the estimated amount needed for a family to live decently.

Teachers’ group Alliance of Concerned Teachers described the P15 wage hike for Metro Manila minimum wage earners as “a Consuelo de bobo of an insensitive and anti-people president.”

Chart depicting varying levels of paltry minimum wages burned in front of labor department by members of KMU March 23
Chart depicting varying levels of paltry minimum wages burned in front of labor department by members of KMU, March 23

“What can we buy out of it? It cannot even cover the increase in the prices of basic services like that of the MRT and LRT,” lamented Mr. Benjie Valbuena, National Chair of ACT. Trains fares were hiked the first working week this year, a decision which commuter groups blamed on the railways’ privatization. Water and power rates which are also privatized have hiked their rates, too.

The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights, a labor NGO, calculated that the wage hike will benefit only 12-percent of workers in the capital, “when all working people are being affected by left and right price hikes.”

‘Always a one-sided compromise’

While workers were burning a streamer of the varying minimum wage hikes in the country, President Aquino was praising the likes of Mr Ramon Ang, president of San Miguel Corporation, which bagged one of his administration’s plum PPP deals, the South Luzon Expressway Toll Road 4. At a media briefing for the said public-private project, Aquino also announced he would continue to present “more opportunities of growth for the country.”

Such opportunities are reserved only to a few, the CTUHR said. They estimated that profits of biggest corporations have doubled from 2009 to 2013, but only “crumbs” were shared to workers in the same period. Their study showed that wages did not double in value as profits; it merely stagnated over a long period and, under the Aquino administration, even began to dip in real value.

Malacañang’s defense that the P15 ($0.34) wage hike is a “compromise” between the interest of employers and workers is belied by reality, the CTUHR concluded. In the 26 years of wage regionalization, these wage hikes are always a one-sided “compromise,” it said.

The Anakpawis Partylist pushed also for the granting of P16,000 ($357.60) national minimum wages, saying it could start opportunities for growth that included most of the people.

IBON said the P16,000 ($357.60) national minimum wages represent only a 17-percent cut in profit, and it would not necessarily cause inflation if the establishments bore the dip in profit instead of passing it on to prices of their products or services. It added that granting workers a substantial wage increase will improve the welfare of workers and will provide their families much-needed respite from the increasing cost of living.

“Higher wages have dynamic multiplier effects on the economy because a wage-led growth is an internal and more sustainable source of economic growth than external markets. A substantial wage increase will also benefit micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that produce goods for the local market that will be consumed by those who receive a wage hike. It will also benefit the informal economy in worker communities when additional wages will be used to pay vendors, sari-sari stores, small eateries, jeepney and tricycle drivers and others,” Ibon said in a statement.

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