“Dee is sticking with their lie that increasing wages would result in job losses while denying the fact that a significant wage hike, through the National Minimum Wage of P750, would only be a 30 percent decrease in their profits as per independent think-tank IBON Foundation’s research. This still leaves them with 70 percent of clean profits to pocket.”
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte once lashed out at ‘oligarchs’ — now one of its staunch representatives has given a briefing in Malacañang and expressed a desire for the president to remove from his Cabinet certain appointees threatening the interests of the oligarchs. Based on the statement of the Kilusang Mayo Uno, the chairman emeritus of the Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines, Mr Donald Dee, also has this problem when he lashed out at his perceived leftists in government: Mr Dee is being “too greedy.”
Dee and the employers’ group he led for years have fought the proposed P125 wage hike. So it came as no surprise to KMU that he and ECOP would once again oppose the latest calls for wage hike. But the KMU still sought to correct what they call as Mr Dee’s “lies.”
Dee painted dire scenarios on job creation if the P125 across-the-board wage hike called for by the Labor Department were approved. He presented a different look at employment statistics and prospects of wage hike compared to how the workers’ groups and advocates view it. He continues to brandish the P125 wage hike proposal as if it is a dangerous weapon trained on small and medium enterprises. But in many cases, these are exempted from paying the minimum wage rates.
Small and medium enterprises need not suffer from a wage hike order. According to non-government think-tank Ibon, smaller firms including those (firms with one to 19 employees) not covered by the government survey who may not be able to afford the wage hike can be supported with tax breaks, cheap credit, and other support to lessen the burden on them.
The real problem for representatives of oligarchs, such as Dee, is the reduction in their profits, assuming a substantial wage hike order was indeed granted by the Labor department’s wage boards, the KMU said.
“Dee is sticking with their lie that increasing wages would result in job losses while denying the fact that a significant wage hike, through the National Minimum Wage of P750 ($15.50), would only be a 30 percent decrease in their profits as per independent think-tank IBON Foundation’s research. This still leaves them with 70 percent of clean profits to pocket,” said Elmer ‘Bong’ Labog, chairperson of KMU.
The Labor department’s P125 ($2.58) across the board wage hike proposal, meanwhile, will only cost a total cumulative of Php193.4 billion (almost $4 billion), said Ibon in another statement. This is only 12.3 percent of capitalist profits, and will still leave establishments with Php1.38 trillion ($28.53 billion) in profits, said the research group.
Even the threat on jobs posed by ECOP to prevent wage hikes has no bearing on reality, based on experience. Elmer ‘Bong’ Labog, chairperson of KMU, pointed to the country’s historically worsening unemployment situation. If wage hikes were to blame for the jobs crisis, then why is the country’s unemployment worsening when there had been no significant wage hike for decades now? asked Labog. He pointed to another cause altogether which he said have solutions, but it does not include pushing the workers to starvation wages.
Aside from opposing wage hikes, ECOP was also Dee’s employers’ group that had submitted a so-called win-win proposal on ‘endo’ (endof contract) late last month. Nearly all big labor groups criticized it last October 3 in a dialogue at the Department of Labor and Employment.
Fearing the prospect of the wage hike and the workers’ stance against contractualizaton, Mr Dee lashed out at the “leftists” in the Duterte’s administration. “Oligarchs and foreign big businesses represented by Mr. Dee are threatened by President Duterte’s pro-worker and pro-people initiatives,” said Labog.
Media reports quoted Dee as saying he hopes the president will remove those leftists, because, according to him, these ‘leftists’ are not doing their duties and they are only there “in order to implement their own philosophical stuff.”
An Inquirer report said Dee was alluding to Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III and Labor Undersecretary Joel Maglunsod.
Labor Sec. Bello told reporters in a weekly media forum that job creation is still one of the priorities of the department under the Duterte administration. He said jobs grew 12 percent recently. Bello agrees with the ECOP leader about prioritizing job generation, but he said “we are not saying that we don’t prioritize the job creation when we consider the salary adjustment.”
Bello, however, said the P125 wage hike proposal is “a personal matter” or initiative of Labor Undersecretary Maglungsod. He said that it will still go through a process, and that the DOLE as a whole is similarly interested in increasing the salaries of workers.
Rather than listen to Dee, President Duterte and Labor Sec. Bello were urged to stand against “the anti-worker, anti-poor and anti-Filipino oligarchs such as Mr. Dee and his foreign big business masters.”
As for the problem of chronic unemployment, the KMU reiterated that it can be traced to widespread landlessness in the countryside and the backward and import-dependent Philippine economy. Those problems have a solution, they said.
“The only way to address this is through genuine land reform and national industrialization,” Labog said. These are the main socio-economic reforms being pushed by workers in the on-going peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.