By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – A day after one of the biggest Labor Day rallies was held all over the Philippines, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and employers continued discrediting the working people’s demands for a P125 across-the-board wage hike.
Aquino persisted in multiplying the demanded wage hike to total number of employed persons, even if labor groups had tried to correct his flawed computations by reminding him that the wage and salary workers are less than half of the total employed workers.
The employers, meanwhile, continued citing how wages in the Philippines are highest in Asia, even if labor groups and independent think-tanks have disproved that by citing other independent international researches. They also reminded employers and Aquino that in other countries, the population is enjoying price subsidies. It is the opposite in the Philippines where prices of oil, medicines and electricity are deemed as one of the highest in Asia.
Amid this “lack of compassion to workers by the Aquino government and big capitalists,” the labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno hailed the statement of His Eminence Luis Antonio G. Tagle for expressing the Church’s compassion for workers.
The Pagbabago! People’s Movement for Change who supports the workers in their call for regular work and a substantial wage increase also welcomed the statement of Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle which pointed out that the “laborer is supreme than capital and profit.”
In time for the celebration of the International Labor Day, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle outlined the social teachings of the Church on labor and expressed the Church’s compassion toward workers.
Tagle shared, in his Labor Day statement, the Roman Catholic Church’s teachings on labor, which said that man is created in the image of God, that labor is a right and a just means to express and take care of human dignity, and that labor is a human task.
Tagle said workers are “the most important part of production.” Archbishop Tagle also said that while the growth of the financial aspect of production ids important, it should not be a reason to exploit workers.
“We appreciate the statement made by Archbishop Tagle. It underscores the importance of labor both for the upbringing of one’s family and the society, and most importantly it upholds the honor of the laborer,” said Fr. Joe Dizon, spokesperson of Pagbabago!
Malacañang urged to listen
“We could not be happier that the new Archbishop of Manila has spoken favorably of workers’ dignity and rights. Now, more than ever, workers need all the help we can get in defending and advancing our basic rights to a living wage, job security, decent jobs, and free exercise of trade-union rights,” said Lito Ustarez, vice-chairman of KMU.
The labor leader attended the mass at Quiapo Church, held in the morning of Labor Day, officiated by Bishop Deogracias Yniguez of the Diocese of Caloocan. Archbishop Tagle’s statement was read in that mass.
“At a time when the Aquino government and big capitalists are showing their lack of compassion – nay, brutality – toward workers, Archbishop Tagle’s statement is like a breath of fresh air.” Ustarez said.
“Archbishop Tagle’s words are an inspiration for Filipino workers and the people to struggle for immediate relief amidst worsening hunger and poverty in the country,” he added.
With Tagle’s statement, Ustarez said, the labor movement finds “inspiration” to continue pressing for a significant wage hike. Labor groups have also been resisting schemes that ultimately result in diminishing their wages and trade union rights. With the Church blessing, Ustarez said, they will continue to push for “the scrapping of contractual employment schemes, for putting an end to demolition of poor communities, for government control over oil prices, for implementing the immediate distribution of lands to Luisita farmers, and for the pullout of US troops from the country.”