“The Filipino workers and people have every reason to be outraged by the Aquino government’s refusal to implement a substantial wage hike while allowing prices to increase unabated.” – Koalisyon ng Manggagawa at Mamamayang Pilipino (KPMM)
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – “Why is it that when oil companies increase their prices, Malacañang and the energy department function as their announcers, but when workers ask for wage hikes, Malacañang and the labor department function as gatekeepers?” Elmer ‘Bong’ Labog, chairman of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), asked in a press conference this Monday.
Labog noted that the government has cited again as requirement a thorough research into the “appropriateness” of a wage hike, and a determination if there were supervening events indeed, before it considers whether a wage hike is warranted.
But assuming the minimum wage rate was finally increased by P125 ($2.89), Labog said, the daily wage would only increase to P529 ($12.23), an amount “still way below the P917 ($21.20) cost of living declared a couple of years ago, and more price hikes had happened since then.”
The prevailing minimum wage rates in the country decline as one goes farther away from the National Capital Region, but it is not true, said Labog, that cost of living outside of Metro Manila is lower. In fact, he noted that oil prices are even higher outside Metro Manila. “Workers and their families wherever they are in the Philippines have the same need to eat the basic food groups and the same requirements to live decently,” said Labog. That is why workers are calling for a nationwide, across-the-board substantial wage hike, he added.
To dramatize the calls to the Aquino government to immediately implement a substantial wage hike amid intensifying hunger and poverty, leaders of multi-sectoral organizations allied in Koalisyon ng Manggagawa at Mamamayang Pilipino (KPMM) held a noise barrage this Monday using empty pots with pictures of President Aquino inside.
KPMM will hold a more wide-spread noise barrage in communities and workplaces around Metro Manila on April 14, and they are inviting Filipinos and those with or without work to join them in the Metro-wide afternoon protests. The Metro-wide protest is dubbed as Kalampagan para sa Dagdag-sahod na Makabuluhan at Laban sa Presyong Nagtataasan. On May 1 Labor Day, KPMM invites all workers to join the “Workers’ Day of Outrage”.
“The Filipino workers and people have every reason to be outraged by the Aquino government’s refusal to implement a substantial wage hike while allowing prices to increase unabated,” said Larry Tan, spokesman of KPMM. He added that there is apparently a need “to put pressure” on the Aquino government to listen to the long-standing calls for a substantial wage hike and price controls.
Under the current Aquino government, real wages have been eroded by P7 ($0.16), “erasing the meager P5 ($0.12) increase under the Arroyo administration”, according to a research by the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER).
KPMM rejects as mere “attempts at pacifying” the people the recent pronouncements of President Aquino and labor secretary Rosalinda Baldoz about studying the possibility of granting small increases in the employed people’s cost of living allowance.
“We cannot accept attempts to pacify us with a mere P600 ($13.87) increase in the monthly salary of government employees and promises of a mere P8 ($0.18) increase in the emergency cost of living allowance of private-sector workers,” Tan said in a statement. He was referring to the impending release of the third tranche of government employees’ salary hike under the Salary Standardization Law (SSL-3), and Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz’s statements about increasing workers’ ECOLA (emergency cost of living allowance).
The placatory announcements of “insufficient and insulting increases will only add fuel to our protests,” Tan said. He explained that they are not after dole-outs from the government and employers. “What we are demanding is a bigger share of the value that we have been creating so we can at least continue to survive in these times of extreme economic hardship,” Tan said.
In the past decade, the recorded corporate profits in the Philippines have grown more than five times, according to non-government think-tank Ibon, which also said the workers’ wages have been left so very far behind as it had increased by only P5 in almost 10 years under the former administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and all these have been eroded already under Aquino, as EILER said in a study.
“The Aquino government’s supposed need to study first the matter of granting wage hike, and to look for ‘supervening events’ despite the already clear and urgent need for it, even as they freely allow oil companies to jack up their prices, showed you the wrong priority and thrust of this government,” Labog said. To help President Aquino to come to his senses and listen, the KPMM said they are urging all working people to join the April 14 Metro-wide noise barrage and protests.