Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume IV, Number 12 April 25 - May 1, 2004 Quezon City, Philippines
Workers Count on a Wage Increase in Election Season?
for a substantial wage increase are not hinged on the workers’ wealth
accumulation, but merely on the family’s survival amid hard times. As the
nation celebrates Labor Day within an election campaign, the possibility of a
wage increase looms, along with other labor-related benefits. Should workers be
happy with this development?
DANILO ARAÑA ARAO
are low and prices are high. That a worker’s take-home pay is not enough to
take him or her home is not a joke but a brutal reality.
campaign by militant labor for a P125 ($2.24, based on exchange rate of P55.75
per US dollar) across-the-board increase in the daily minimum wage rates
nationwide started on Aug. 25, 1999. At that time, the minimum wage in Metro
Manila was pegged at P198 ($3.55) and the cost of living for a metropolis-based
family of six amounted to P455.82 ($8.18).
present, however, Metro Manila minimum wage workers earn P280 ($5.02) daily.
This is not even half of what the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC)
places as the family living wage in the national capital region - P594 ($10.65).
actual wages are clearly not enough to provide for the family’s basic needs.
It has come to a point where parents earning minimum wage are still short of
meeting the family’s decent living requirements, prompting them to either take
on a second job or see their own children working for additional income.
situation becomes more alarming when analyzing the extent of wage erosion
through the years. While petty wage increases have been granted in the past,
these were clearly offset by increased prices of commodities.
from the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) and the National Statistics
Office (NSO) show that the real value of wages did not have any significant
change. This is not much of a surprise since the purchasing power of the peso
(PPP) has significantly deteriorated since 1999. (See Table)
PPP refers to the equivalent value “at base year prices of goods and services
that a peso can buy at current prices.” In other words, this refers to the
buying power of one peso at present compared to the prices of goods and services
in a given base year, in this case 1994. The real value reflects how much of a
given amount has been lost due to increased prices of goods and services at
present compared to 1994.
on Bulatlat.com computations, wages have been substantially eroded since
1999 when the campaign for a P125 ($2.24) nationwide wage hike campaign started.
In the entire country, the wage erosion from 1999 to 2004 ranged from 31 percent
to 43 percent.
Metro Manila, the government increased the daily minimum wage from 1999 to 2004
by P56.50 ($1.01). However, this only translates to a P1.99-increase ($0.03) in
real terms. The situation is worse in areas outside Metro Manila where the
nominal increase of P25.60 ($0.46) does not amount to anything since real wages
fell by P3.27 ($0.06).
clearly explain why workers continue to ask for P125 despite government’s move
to grant minuscule increases in the past. And while the bill seeking to do so
remains pending in Congress, the workers’ demand for a P60 “immediate
relief” must be analyzed in this context.
data are also more than enough reasons to grant a substantial wage increase now.
The government’s refusal to do so through the years only reflects its
insensitivity to the workers’ plight.
the nation celebrates Labor Day within an election campaign, the possibility of
a wage increase looms, along with other labor-related benefits. (The
President’s own advisers have so far announced at press time only non-wage
increase.) After all, the powers-that-be are doing anything and everything to
stay in power and it is politically sound to give workers what they want in the
hope that such moves will be translated into votes on May 10.
Does this mean victory for the labor movement? Workers know better than to remain complacent as the struggle for better working conditions go beyond the “quantifiables.” After all, the struggle for qualitative change in social conditions warrants the unwavering commitment of workers to end not just exploitation and oppression in the workplace but in the whole society as well. Bulatlat.com