KMU and Ibon research group said the P10 ($0.22) wage hike approved in Metro Manila is puny compared to what the workers’ families need to cope with price hikes; to what the wage needs to regain after decades-long erosion; and compared to the growth in labor productivity.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — The labor center Kilusang mayo Uno (KMU) had predicted the government wage board would grant a paltry wage hike. But when the Metro Manila wage board finally approved a P10 ($0.22) hike last Friday, the progressive labor group was still “revolted” by its paltriness.
“While politicians are enjoying millions of pork barrel under the government of Pres. Benigno Aquino III, workers are being forced to make do with mere “pig feed” or “kaning baboy” in the vernacular,” the KMU said in a statement. The labor center used to compare wage board-granted hike to “crumbs on the table,” which are still human food. This Tuesday Sept 10, they picketed the main office of the Labor Department in Intramuros, Manila to protest the insufficient wage hike.
In various reports, both the government and the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) have defended the P10 hike ($0.22). ECOP president Edgardo Lacson said it is “a unanimous decision of employers and employees in the tripartite wage board.” He described the amount as “one-size fits all” — and that it may be too small for some employers but too big for others. He said the workers’ representatives and those labor groups they are in talks with had agreed to the P10 hike.
Lacson’s ECOP talks in tripartite councils with what progressive labor groups describe as “yellow” leaders, or those whom they define as frequently into making deals with the employers for their own gain.
The KMU had not filed a wage hike petition with any regional wage board; it was the government-backed Trade Union Congress of the Philippines who did. KMU and other independent labor groups have been calling for the abolition of the wage boards. Instead of the regional wage boards deciding on wage hike petitions, the KMU and other labor groups have been calling on Congress to immediately pass the P125 ($2.84) Wage Hike Bill, recently refiled as House Bill 253 by Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Fernando Hicap.
With the P10 ($0.22) hike in Metro Manila, Elmer “Bong” Labog, chairman of KMU, said it was confirmed yet again “that the country’s wage boards are incapable of approving a significant wage hike and are instruments of capitalists for pressing down workers’ wages.”
Paltry in every way
Based on statements of the KMU and Ibon research group, the P10 ($0.22) wage hike approved in Metro Manila is puny compared to what the workers’ families need to cope with price hikes; to what the wage needs to regain after decades-long erosion; and compared to the growth in labor productivity.
According to Lacson of ECOP, the P10 hike ($0.22) “defies the law of supply and demand.” He reasoned that there are more supply of available workers than available jobs.
The P10 ($0.22) wage hike will take effect in Metro Manila in November. Meanwhile, prices of basic needs are increasing. Just this month, KMU noted that LPG prices increased by more than P30 ($0.68), the per-kilo price of rice by P5.00-P8.00 ($0.11 –$0.18). The prices of petroleum products have also been increasing, with diesel nearing the P45 ($1.02) per liter mark. Plus, the Aquino government is continuing to push for a fare hike in the MRT and LRT fare of P10 ($0.22) with P5.00 ($0.11) to be imposed this year, an increase in private sector workers’ SSS premium, and until recently, increases in water rates.
“The P10 wage hike is not even enough to cover increases in the prices of basic commodities and the rates of basic services this month, ” Labog said.
Filipinos’ persistently low wages “just means the workers are getting only a smaller section of the value they create through hard work,” Labog added.
Growth in NCR labor productivity has far outpaced that of the mandated minimum wage, the research group IBON said in a statement. They shared that the NCR regional gross domestic product (RGDP) per employed person rose by 136 percent from more than Php 361 thousand (or US$8,127) per worker in 2002 to Php853,003 (or US$1,9184.22) in 2012. Yet, the minimum wage only rose by a much lower 63 percent over the same period or from Php280 (US$6.30) at yearend 2002 to Php426 ($9.61) at yearend 2012.
“NCR labor productivity far outpacing the mandated minimum wage implies that the benefits of productivity growth have been going to the owners of capital rather than the workers,” Ibon executive director Sonny Africa said. This also “belies the Aquino administration’s claim of seeking inclusive growth.”
According to IBON, higher wages are among the most important mechanisms for inclusive growth, aside from more jobs through well-developed Filipino industry and equitable agricultural development. With the Aquino administration’s adherence to a low wage policy, Ibon said the government is exposing its “bias for foreign investors, especially, rather than for wage and salaried Filipino workers.”