P22 increment in wages, not enough

A special report for the CBCP News Service

By Noel Sales Barcelona, Diocesan Correspondent – Diocese of Antipolo

ANTIPOLO CITY, June 18, 2010—Catherine Turqueza Bantoy, 22 year old tutor for Korean students in an online school in Mandaluyong City, works for six days straight. Though her compensation is much bigger than the wage earners in Metro Manila, she said her salary is not enough; especially as she’s helping her family in their daily needs.

Now that the regional wage boards (RWBs) had announced that it had approved an increase, Cath (Bantoy’s nickname) got excited. But to her disappointment, they are not included in the P22 wage increase (US$0.47/€ 0.38 based in the prevailing exchange rate of P46.14: US$1 and P56.65: Euro1.00).

But even if they are included, Cath says, the increment is still insufficient.

“Mas malaki kasi ‘yong itinaas ng presyo ng mga bilihin. Saka, ‘yon nga, hindi noon covered [ang] lahat ng workers. Tulad namin, wala kaming dagdag (The increase of prices of commodities is much bigger than the P22 increment. Plus, the increment does not cover all the workers. Like us, we expect no increase in our pay),” she told CBCPNews.

Bless, a 34 year-old call center employee in Quezon City, shared the same sentiment.

“Kulang pang pamasahe ‘yan eh. Ang pamasahe ko araw-araw ay P98, tapos ang increase, P22 lang. Pero, okay na rin ‘yon. Sana maisama kami diyan kasi malaking tulong din ‘yan para sa akin (The P22 increase is not enough even for my fare that costs P98 (US$2.11/€1.72) a day; but I am still hoping that we will be included in the increase. It would still be a big help for me and my family),” she said in an interview.

Not enough to pay tuition fees

Now that School Year 2010 – 2011 had already started, the militant youth group Anakbayan (loosely translated, Children of the Nation) said it should be expected that more and more kids that will not be able to go to school because of financial difficulty.

Anakbayan vice-chairperson Anton Dulce, in a statement said, President-elect Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III should prioritize, not only the tuition fee freeze but to ensure that workers and employees will get enough in order to live a decent life and to be able to send their children to school.

Citing the latest data from the Department of Education (DepEd), Dulce revealed that the number of out-of-school youth (OSYs) had increased to 78 per cent in nine years, that is, from years 2001 to 2010.

In 2009, Dulce said, DepEd had an estimate of 5.6 million OSYs nationwide.

“Even if there is no tuition fee to pay, there had been lots of students in public elementary and secondary schools who have decided to discontinue schooling due to lack of money. While the prices of basic commodities are going up, up, up, the value of their meager salaries or incomes, are going down, down, down,” Dulce explained.

Though they welcome the P22 wage increase in Metro-Manila, they belittled the amount saying that it cannot even buy decent lunch and not even enough to pay the fare going to and from the school.

Not enough for decent living

According to IBON estimates, the cost of daily living in Manila alone had already reached P917 ($19.84/€16.18), while the daily wages in the Philippines’ national capital is only P367 ($7.95/€6.47).

With the P22 wage increase, which will not be implemented by all business establishments in Metro Manila alone, the minimum wage will be P389 ($8.42/€6.86)—still P528 ($11.43/€9.32) short compared to the daily cost of living.

The nearby provinces in Southern Tagalog region, meanwhile, the daily wage earners for industries (mostly inside the economic processing zones) receive a measly P236 – P320 (between $5.11 – 6.93/€4.16 – 5.64) while for agricultural (plantation) workers, P196.00 – P275.00 ($4.24 – 5.95/€3.46 – 4.85) minimum daily wage.

‘Enact P125.00 legislated wage increase’

The Kilusang Mayo Uno (May First Movement or KMU) Labor Center believes that it is high time that the incoming 15th Congress must enact the P125 ($2.70/€2.20) across-the-board, nationwide increase that the labor movement had been campaigning since 1999, the time of former President Joseph E. Estrada.

Lito Ustarez, KMU executive vice-chair, said in a statement that neither the P22 wage increase, nor the P75 ($1.62/€1.32) proposal by the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) is enough to ease the economic burden of the Filipino workers.

It was the late Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran who had pushed the legislation of the P125 wage increase, but failed to make it approved by the Philippine Congress due to the protestations of the business community.

However, the P22 wage increment is considered by the KMU as a “dividing” tactic by the government to again weaken the unity of the workers in pushing for a substantial wage increase.

“It is the nature of the RWBs to give workers only meager and sporadic wage increases. They are a trap, created to divide and weaken the nationwide struggle of workers for substantial wage hikes,” explained Ustarez.

The labor leader stressed that the recent P22 wage increase will not in any way benefit workers outside Metro Manila, thus there is a need for that substantial wage hike.

“We stand firm in our position that calls for a substantial wage increase should be directed at the national government – the legislature and the president, in particular. It is only through a sustained and expanding militant campaign that is directed at the national government can we workers get the P125 nationwide wage hike and immediate relief that we deserve,” he said.

Asked if they will support the call for a legislated wage hike, either for P75 or P125, Cath and Bless said they will strongly support the call.

“Regarding the P22 increase in the minimum wage, it is really insufficient. As you can see, the increase in prices of basic commodities is really high and not all employees—especially those who are under monthly contract, such as call center agents and office workers like us—are covered by the increase. As a worker, I agree that there must be a legislated wage increase. But it must be really substantial in order to ease our already heavy economic burden,” Cath said. (CBCPNews.com)