“Our take home pay cannot take us home anymore.”
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – “The prices of just about everything have gone up – oil, jeepney and bus fares, toll fees, rice, sugar, bread. Our take home pay cannot take us home anymore”, said Mau Aguilar, president of the Judiciary Employees Association (JUDEA) and spokesperson of WAGE FIGHT!, an alliance of unions of public sector employees in a press conference today. Aguilar said government employees can no longer cope with the rising cost of living. As an “immediate relief”, she added that “a substantial salary increase is now imperative for the 1.4 million government employees”.
A few days before, unions from the private sector in Metro Manila have banded together to form an alliance called Unity for P125 ($2.88). They called on President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to “have a strong political will to urgently grant the Filipino workers’ long-drawn demand for a P125 wage hike.”
They also cited the “relentless” increases in prices of oil, public transportation fare and food as more than sufficient reasons for raising the Filipinos’ wages now.
Gov’t delaying wage hike while preparing the way for a minimal hike
Last week Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo admitted to reporters that the calls for a wage increase were “reasonable” given the high prices of basic commodities. He said it is “OK to increase wages as long as it is reasonable.” Domingo has also estimated that with inflation breaching four percent, a wage hike that was a little higher than four percent might be of help to consumers.
With the DTI chief’s admission, the labor groups urged President Aquino to declare as urgent the passing of pending bills calling for a substantial, nationwide wage hike, citing the fact that even government agencies “cannot deny” the need for a wage hike.
But no sooner had Domingo suggested a higher-than-4percent wage hike when President Aquino swiftly capped this relatively low estimate with 5-percent inflation as condition before admitting to the possibility of a wage hike.
Since the last meager wage hike in the country, the price of oil has increased P7 ($0.16) per liter, or 15-percent, the minimum fare from P7 to P8, or 12.5-percent, said Joel Maglunsod, vice-chairman of Anakpawis Partylist. Toll fees in major highways in the country have also been raised more than 100-percent this year, and prices of foodstuff and electricity have also increased. These price hikes unfortunately add to the fact that “For more than 10 years, workers have not had a ‘one-time big-time’ wage hike,” as KPMM noted.
Following Aquino’s 5-percent-inflation-first before a minimal wage hike, the Bangko Sentral came out with the amount of P25 ($0.57) as their seeming cap for a tolerable wage hike. BSP Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo said that according to the latest central bank estimate, inflation could hit anywhere between 4 and 5 percent this year, still within the official target. He said the estimate was based on the assumption that daily wages would rise by P25. He then warned that any wage increase higher than P25 would raise inflation by more than their targeted five-percent.
Worse, the minimal wage hike being floated by officials of the Aquino government may come with new taxes, or increases in rates of old taxes.
Finance Undersecretary Gil S. Beltran told reporters last week that they are studying new tax measures and they will file bills next year calling for such. The new tax measures under study include increasing the rates of real property taxes and value added tax, the latter from 12percent to 15-percent.