Big landlords representing owners of haciendas and big sugar plantations determine the wages received by part-time and full-time agricultural workers across the country.
BY GERRY ALBERT CORPUZ
Contributed to Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 11, April 20-26, 2008
Big landlords representing owners of haciendas and big sugar plantations determine the wages received by part-time and full-time agricultural workers across the country, based on a six-month research study conducted July-December 2007 by the Unyon ng Mga Manggagawa Sa Agrikultura (UMA or Union of Workers in AGriculture), the largest agricultural workers’ organization in the country.
”The Regional Wage Boards, which President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo hypes as the government authorities in charge of determining the wage of non-agricultural and agricultural workers, merely exist in government documents and Malacañang praise releases, but in reality, these wage boards are toothless tigers ,white elephants and partners in crime of big business and big landlords,” said Rene Galang, UMA national
”For instance in Central Luzon, where there are 20,000 agricultural workers, the actual wage received by farm workers is P120 ($2.60 at last year’s average exchange rate of $1:P46.15) per day, which is below the P273 ($5.92) daily wage set by the Regional Wage Board,” Galang stressed.
The UMA chair added: “All over the country, agricultural workers are treated as slave workers pooled in big labor concentration camps like haciendas, plantations and sugar farmlands. The wages they receive are only a token recognition by the ruling fiefdom that they employ workers, and they are further misrepresented by the government as daily wage earners to improve labor employment records from time to time.”
UMA also found out that in Batangas province, where there are over 50,000 agricultural workers, sugar workers in large sugar plantations receive a daily take home pay ranging from P35 ($0.76) to P150 ($3.25) per day, way below the P211 ($4.57) set by the Regional Wage Board in Southern Tagalog.
In Negros, which is home to 680,000 sugar workers, the Regional Wage Board has approved P203 ($4.40) for the daily take home pay of private and agricultural workers, but the actual wages farm workers receive varies from P30 ($0.65) to P200 ($4.33) per day.
UMA said in Far South Mindanao actual wages range from P80 ($1.73) to P130 ($2.82) per day, which is 40-60 percent lower compared to the minimum wage of P205 ($4.44) prescribed by the Regional Wage Board. In Northern Central Mindanao, where there are 39,000 recognized agricultural workers, the prevailing actual wage rate is between P60 ($1.30) to P100 ($2.17), which is way below the P217-227 ($4.704.92) set by the Regional Wage Board.
The agricultural workers group said it is also throwing its collective support to the proposed legislation of a P125-across-the-board wage increase, saying if approved by Congress, the increase in the daily take home pay should be added quickly to the actual wages received by agricultural workers at present.
UMA said the national government should recognize that all agricultural workers are all minimum wage earners, despite the fact that majority of them work part time or seasonal workers spread over a period of six months.
”As agricultural workers and in recognition of their contribution to the national economy, they deserve to receivea minimum wage of P350 ($8.35 at the exchange rate of $1:P41.91 as of April 18) per day, as well as pay increases, social benefits and decent housing,” the agricultural workers’ union said.
For its part, the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya or National Alliance of Small Fisherfolk Organizations) said fishworkers in commercial fishing vessels and aquaculture fishponds, though reflected as part of the country’s total labor force are also paid way below the prescribed minimum wage.
In a study conducted by Pamalakaya in 2004 and 2005, it was shown that fish workers in trawl fishing receive a daily pay hike of P100 to P150 ($2.38 to $3.57) for 20 hours’ work, while the fishworker captain and 2nd fish worker captain receive P150 to P180 ($3.57 to $4.29) for 20 hours’ work.