Wage Increase Matters (but what can Php35 buy?)

Php 35 wage increase, an insult to workers- Kilusang Mayo Uno

True enough. Any increase in the minimum wage in the Philippines is better than nothing, right? Or is it?

Last July 1,  the regional wage board announced the Php 35 (equivalent to Cdn $0.8) wage increase for workers in the National Capital Region. This makes the daily minimum wage to be Php 645 (Cad$15). A pathetic wage increase, it was like a crumb or a scrap thrown off the table  to the workers.

Workers found it laughable, disgusting, insulting, disgraceful, infuriating. It was a far cry from the reality that workers and their families face every day. The news was bad enough to get angry workers, their families, and people’s organizations marching out on the streets, with their placards.   Workers and their families showed what they thought of this wage increase and will continue to challenge it in the halls of Congress and on the streets, workplaces, schools, and in the public and online arenas and demand their right as workers to a living wage.

Workers groups were harsh in their statements: “Ang halagang ito ay hindi man lang makakabili ng isang kilo ng bigas, manok o giniling na baboy. Hindi ito makakabayad ng kuryente, tubig at renta. Sa madaling salita, malayong malayo ito sa kailangan ng isang manggagawa upang buhayin ang kaniyang pamilya.” (This amount can not even buy a kilo of rice, chicken or minced meat. This is not enough to pay for electricity, water, and rent. In other words, this  is far from what a worker needs to support his family.”)

This measly wage increase does not even bring workers wages close to the “family living wage” of Php 1,207. Economic think tank Ibon Foundation said that a worker needs a  daily minimum wage, a family living wage, of Php 1,207 (Cdn $28.7) for a worker and family to survive.

Living wages are minimum wages that are sufficient for a Filipino worker and family to meet their basic living expenses, that include rent, food, utilities, school needs, health care, and even a bit left for savings. Living wages help ensure that workers live decently, comfortably, and with dignity. How does the government expect workers to survive on Php 645 a day?

The Php 35 increase was for the NCR only. Outside of the NCR, the wages are set much lower by the regional wage boards because of “regional rationalization of wages” with no understanding that poverty is nation-wide, and that inflation is nation-wide. Workers across the country agree that  across-the-board wage increases must be applied, i.e., across all sectors, across all regions because poverty, hunger, high prices, underemployment, and other social problems are national issues.

Junk the Wage Rationalization Act! -Kilusang Mayo Uno

Kilusang Mayo Uno, the independent labour centre promoting genuine, militant and patriotic trade unionism,  calls for the scrapping of the Wage Regionalization Act which has failed to make sure that workers minimum wages kept up with inflation. After 35 years, it is time for a nationally mandated wage system that will protect workers interests and welfare and not corporate profits. The KMU has also called for a Php 1200 national minimum wage!

Fight for the Php 1200 national minimum wage! – Kilusang Mayo Uno

The  Marcos Jr government  proved that it has no interest at all to give fair, just, and decent wages to workers. Instead, it is bent on keeping labour cheap. Because more than the majority of the seats in the House of Representatives and the Senate are filled with members who are big landlords, big compradors, millionaires and billionaires, and those representing these class and foreign interests, it is not in their selfish agenda to share their wealth and profits by legislating for living wages.

Marcos Jr. bragged when he announced on May First that he was ordering a wage review of workers’ wages. If he was serious about workers wages, he could have, as President, simply directed Congress to immediately pass the long overdue large legislated wage hikes. But he did not. Because he did not want to. His announcement was hollow and his words full of hot air: “I proudly reaffirm the government’s commitment to champion the rights of Filipino workers, in pursuit of development and prosperity, and blah blah blah.”

The President is no champion of the Filipino workers or their families.

Workers create wealth through their labour, but the value that they create goes to corporate profits and the elite few rather than to workers. When the productivity of workers goes up, their wages do not reflect this. But it is spectacularly reflected in the bloated wealth of the Philippines’ top 100 corporations and the three richest Filipino billionaires, Manny Villar, Enrique Razon and Ramon Ang.

Everyone knows that starvation wages directly impact  not just the workers but also their  families and children, their nutrition and health, and its links to learning and overall growth. It is a grim reality that will continue to drive our kababayan to work abroad to be able to send remittances to their families. Their plan to return becomes a distant dream when there are no decent jobs with living wages to be had.

As overseas Filipinos with strong ties to the Philippines, we have to stand with workers and our families back home for better wages, livelihoods, and rights. Let us raise our voices for a Philippine national minimum wage based on the family living wage.  

Let us stand in strength and solidarity with the workers in the Philippines and demand that Marcos Jr. address the situation of Filipino workers, which includes not only their wages and working conditions but also the harassment and red-tagging against workers. Let us do this at the People’s SONA, July 21 in Canada and July 22 in the Philippines.

Family living wage, ipaglaban!

National minimum wage, ipaglaban!

Dagdag sahod at trabaho sa Pinas, hindi sa labas!

Photo credits: Kilusang Mayo Uno FaceBook Page