Candidates Urged: Support P125 Wage Hike

An average of 14 wage orders were issued per region since 1989, most of which were single-digit increases in basic pay. The lowest wage hike, if it can be called as such, said Elmer Labog, is recorded in Region VII at P5 ($0.11), under Wage Order 06 issued in April 1998.

Two decades after the Aquino government enacted the law that practically dissolved the national minimum wage – “workers still suffer from economic disempowerment in terms of very depressed wages, which are being kept low through the years by the regional wage boards in collaboration with big businesses,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog.

He added that now it is starkly plain for all to see that the creation of regional wage boards under the Aquino government “was really meant to keep wage increases at the slightest and company profit at its highest.”

Solidifying the Labor Vote

As the May 10 election nears, progressive labor groups have been challenging the candidates for president, senator, and representatives to turn their anti-poverty promises into “concrete measures,” such as finally enacting the decade-old P125 across the board wage hike proposal. In an interview with the Philippine Star, six senatorial candidates of the Nacionalista Party have responded positively to the proposed wage hike.

Noting that during Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s nine years as president, the organized labor was regarded as “terrorists,” their human rights violated and their Constitutionally-guaranteed rights to living wages, freedom of association and holding strikes were denied, the Filipino progressive labor led by KMU is urging all workers to unite against Arroyo’s attempts to secure immunity beyond her disputed presidency.

In the same vein, the Anakpawis Party-list is also urging voters to “be more discerning” in choosing who to vote for. Most candidates claim to be pro-poor while on the campaign trail. “But how exactly will they serve the poor?” asked Anakpawis. “They should elaborate on their proposed measures,” said Anakpawis, who also expressed hopes that voters, particularly those from the labor front, would pressure the candidates to concretize their pro-poor stance.

“The Arroyo government has paved the way to unprecedented and drastic increases in the prices of basic commodities and utilities, starting from its expanded Value Added Tax to deregulated pricing of oil products and electricity, even as it has frustrated the workers’ demand for a substantial wage hike,” Anakpawis Rep. Joel Maglunsod said. “The May 10 elections should punish the architects and implementers of past anti-poor measures and regressive taxes.”

For its part, the KMU has also cautioned the public against the “charade” being played out now by the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), the employers and the Arroyo administration. They are referring to the government’s announcement that it is not ruling out a wage hike before Arroyo steps down from power. This, according to KMU, is likely a last-ditch attempt of Mrs Arroyo to “deodorize” her image, along with that of the TUCP.

Arroyo has been smarting from an all-time-low popularity rating, while the TUCP has previously suffered defeats in its attempt to get a seat in Congress via its own party-list group.

The TUCP, said KMU, is a government-backed labor group; its leader, former Senator Ernesto Herrera, has been blamed by workers for having crafted the so-called Herrera Law, or RA 6715. Enacted in 1989 almost at the same period as the RA 6727, the law that created the regional wage boards, the Herrera Law revised the Labor Code in many anti-worker and anti-union ways, said Remigio Saladero, the author of labor law book Husgahan Natin (Let’s Judge it.)

Among the revisions brought about by the Herrera Law are the broader powers granted to the Labor secretary in issuing assumption of jurisdiction (AJ) orders, slapping strikers with sanctions, and crafting orders that pave the way for more retrenchments so regular workers can be replaced with contractual or non-regular employees.

Today more than ever, the KMU said, a legislated, nationwide wage hike is what the Filipino workers still need, “not measly hikes in highly select regions.” Even in the face of pending wage hike petitions before several regional wage boards, the group did not file similar petitions “because we see these regional wage boards as the government’s instrument to avoid a substantial wage hike.” (

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