Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume IV, Number 6 March 7 - 13, 2004 Quezon City, Philippines
Gov’t Figures, the Poor Are Now Worst Off
latest official data on family living wage, as well as token and hence
meaningless increases in wages through the years, should be more than enough
reason for government to heed the demand for a wage increase.
DANILO ARAÑA ARAO
The Macapagal-Arroyo administration hardly lifted a finger when oil companies jacked up anew the prices of petroleum products. As if rubbing salt on the wounds, government officials also refused to grant any increase in transportation fares since, according to them, this may result in renewed calls for a wage increase. Echoing the fears of neo-liberal economists, the officials dismissed the calls for wage increase as unacceptable since this is seen to be inflationary. The administration also threatened those who joined the transport strike last March 1 with cancellation of their franchises.
demand for a P125 increase ($2.22, based on exchange rate of P56.345 for every
U.S. dollar) in the minimum daily wage of private sector workers has been
pending since August 25, 1999 when it was first issued by the Kilusang Mayo Uno
(KMU – May First Movement). At the same time, public sector workers also
demanded an increase in their monthly salary by P3,000 ($53.24).
that time, the daily cost of living was pegged at P455.82 ($8.09) for families
of six in Metro Manila, while those living outside Metro Manila needed P353.49
($6.27) and P371.92 ($6.60) to fulfill food and non-food requirements in
agricultural and non-agricultural areas, respectively.
the decision on wage increases for private and public sector workers remains
pending before Congress, various labor groups recently made another demand,
i.e., an “immediate relief” through an increase by P60 ($1.06) in the daily
wage of private sector workers and P1,000 ($17.75) in the monthly salary of
such calls valid at this time? Notwithstanding what economists claimed as a
“stable” inflation rate of 3.4 percent for February (using 1994 as base
year), latest data from the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC)
show that a family of six needs P12,950 ($229.83) to P22,440 ($398.26) to
survive in one month, depending on where they live. (See Table)
of January 2004, a Metro Manila-based private sector worker only earned a
minimum daily wage of P280 ($4.97) but the family living wage was already at
P593 ($10.52) a day. On a monthly basis, this meant that the worker’s gross
monthly pay of P6,160 ($109.33) was not enough to meet the food and non-food
needs of a family of six amounting to P17,790 ($315.73). This clearly resulted
in a deficit of P11,630 ($206.41) monthly.
sector workers outside Metro Manila were also in the same rut, with those living
in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in southern Philippines being
worst off. In ARMM, a worker needed P22,440 ($398.26) monthly to provide for the
needs of his or her family of six members, but the minimum wage was only P140
($2.48) a day, or P3,080 monthly. This is short by an unreachable P19,360
($343.60) in January 2004.
like their private sector counterparts, those who work in government also have
to make do with low wages. Government employees who belong to lowest grade level
(i.e., Salary Grade 1) like drivers and Metro Aide sweepers only receive around
P5,000 ($88.74) monthly.
last wage increase in Metro Manila was in November 2001. The government issued
Wage Order No. 9 which provided for a P30 ($0.53) daily wage increase (i.e.,
additional P15 or $0.27 in November 2001, another P15 or $0.27 in February 2002
in the worker’s allowance).
other regions, the government implemented the latest wage order (i.e., Wage
Order No. 10, January 2004) in Southern Mindanao (Region XI), but this merely
transferred the P25-allowance ($0.44) granted in January 2002 to the basic wage,
hence no actual increase in the workers’ daily minimum wage.
The latest official data, not to mention the token increases in wages through the years, should be more than enough reason for government to grant the demand not just for an immediate relief but also a substantial wage increase. Or face an ever-increasing social unrest. Bulatlat.com