Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. VI, No. 12      April 30 - May 6, 2006      Quezon City, Philippines











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Minimum Wage Workers, Struggling to Live

As minimum wage earners, workers, like Rodolpho Delfin of Filipino Metals Corporation, are able to take home only around P100 per day after deductions are made on their salaries  Even with scrimping, their daily expenses always exceed their income. Given this condition, it is not surprising that workers such as Delfin struggle not only with management but also with government through protest actions in streets. 


The continuing rise in the prices of basic goods caused by oil price spikes is felt where it hurts most: in one’s pocket. And for minimum wage workers such as Rodolpho Delfin of Filipino Metals Corporation, the impact resounds more in his nearly empty stomach.

Delfin, 54, is the union president of Samahang Manggagawa ng Filipino Metals Corporation (SMFMC-ANGLO-KMU) in Filipino Metals Corporation (Annex-A), a company located in Valenzuela that manufactures metal supports for buildings.

According to Delfin, his take-home pay ranges from P700 ($13.51 at $1:P51.78) to P800 ($15.45) a week. This is what he gets for working Monday to Saturday, from seven o’clock in the morning to four o’clock in the afternoon.

“That’s all that’s left after they deduct the cash advances I usually make. I have to have advances on my salary to make ends meet,” he says.

UNHEEDED STILL: Labor unions
have been calling for a P125 wage increase since 1999, and to this day
the demand remains unheeded

When asked how they are able to budget his take home pay, he says they make do with fish and vegetables as daily fare instead of meat. They also buy 25 kilos of rice on installment from a co-worker, enough to last his household of four for a month.

Not-so-fresh fish

Sometimes, they have to settle for not-so-fresh fish. He feels the crunch. “Dati, 10 piraso isang tumpok nang hindi na masyadong sariwang isda. Ngayon, anim o pitong piraso na lang” (Before, 10 pieces comprised a small mound of not-so-fresh fish. Now, it’s down to six or seven pieces), he said.

At work, he and his co-workers contribute to buy food for lunch. They each give P10 ($0.19), enough to buy half-a-kilo of fish, galunggong (mackerel scad) or tilapia (St. Peter’s fish). “Tapos, sinasabawan,” (Then, we turn it into a soup dish), he says, “so that more people can eat.”

They also gather the leaves of vegetables such as kamote (sweet potato), malunggay (moringa), and kangkong ( water spinach) that grow around their factory for their lunch. They planted these vegetables, he said.

He has to resort to this kind of belt-tightening measures as his pay is barely enough, amounting to P100 ($1.93) to P114.28 ($2.20) a day. That is not enough, he said, for his family’s daily expenses.  “Tipid na tipid,” (Scrimping).  They spend P150 ($2.90) for transportation, P70 ($1.35) for food, P600 ($11.59) per month for rent, and of course, the electric and water bill.

It’s a good thing his eldest has a well-off husband whose business is doing well. She pays for the second child’s schooling. Sometimes, he also asks for financial help from his daughter, especially if they run short.

The youngest is a full scholar with allowance to boot. He saves the money for his school needs, such as books, supplies, etc.

His family does not engage in summertime frivolities. “’Di na namin kaya yun” (We cannot afford to do so), he regretfully says. They just stay at home instead.

Varying wages

One policy of government that undermines the workers’ united struggle for higher wages is the creation of regional wage boards, or tripartite conferences, Dabela said. This conference involves the Secretary of Labor and Employment, and “accredited representatives of workers and employers” (RA 6715) converging to discuss, among other things, wage increases. This would mean the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, and the Employers’ Federation of the Philippines, respectively.

According to him, regional wage boards get in the way of legislated wage increases or what is more commonly known as “across-the-board increase.” When workers in one region clamor for a wage increase, only the workers in that area get it. The reason? Because wage increases are governed by regional wage boards.

“Only regions where pressure to increase workers’ wages is felt will have an increase. Other areas may not be granted an increase if no pressure is exerted by workers on their regional wage board. The government passes on the decision to grant wage increases to regional wage boards even if there is an immediate need to do so,” Dabela said.   

This would explain the range in basic wages for non-agriculture sectors in the country in 2005: 


Basic wage


P238.00 to P275.00


P168.00 to P174.00


P185.00 to P200.00


P177.00 to 185.00


P232.00 to P243.50


P225.00 to P265.00


P192.00 to P206.00


P147.00 to P194.00


P180.00 to P205.00


P190.00 to P223.00






P195.00 to P202.00


P207.00 to P209.00







Source: www.nwpc.dole.gov.ph 

Not really P325

Dabela further explains that P325 ($6.28) is not actually the minimum wage in NCR. “Actually, it’s only P275 ($5.31). The remaining P50 ($0.97) is a cost of living allowance (COLA), and is not included when computing benefits such as 13th month pay. So the actual minimum wage is P275 in NCR”, he clarifies.

The call for a P125 ($2.41) increase in daily wages for all regions has been going on since 1999. He admits that it’s a far cry from the P746 ($14.40) living wage for a family of six.  But if a P125 increase in basic wages has gone largely unheeded, what more if the amount is bigger, he said.

Come retirement time, which is next year for him, the only benefit he can look forward to is his retirement pay, which is not much, Mang Delfin says.

Given this condition, it is not surprising that workers such as Delfin struggle not only with management but also with government through protest actions in streets. It is not surprising that after work, they form picket lines, unfurl banners, and chant slogans for passersby to hear. In protest actions, their voices are heard loud and clear and not lost in the twists and turns of government bureaucracy. Bulatlat



© 2006 Bulatlat  Alipato Publications

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