Saturday, April 23, 2011

Bulatlat » Independent Think Tanks Refute Malacañang’s Arguments Against P6,000 and P125 Salary, Wage hikes

“Since July 2010, skyrocketing commodity prices coupled with stagnant wages have eroded workers’ wages in lightning speed, which is unmatched by the previous administration,” said EILER executive director Anna Leah Escresa.


As Malacañang thumbs down the demand of government employees in the country for a substantial wage increase, research groups have taken turns debunking government claims that salary and wage hikes are impossible to implement given the current economic conditions.

Current Wage Provides Only 41 Percent of What Families Need

The IBON Foundation said the value of the daily minimum wage in Metro Manila has dropped and is only able to provide for about 41 percent of the amount needed for a family to live decently. This is less than the figure 10 years ago, in 2001, wherein the minimum wage was about 52 percent of the cost to live decently.

According to the IBON Foundation, the daily minimum wage of P404 (US$9.39) is just 2/5 of the estimated average family living wage (FLW) of P988 (US$23) in the National Capital Region (NCR) as of March 2011. The family living wage is defined as the minimum amount needed for a family of six members to meet their daily food and non-food needs plus a 10 percent allocation for savings. The latest living wage estimates are based on the 2008 family living wage computation of the National Wages and Productivity Commission of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

According to IBON data, the daily minimum wage of P265 (US$6) in 2001 was half of the amount a family needed to live decently, which was then pegged at P509 (US$12).

As the DOLE and the wage boards deliberate on whether to give a wage hike next month, the research group urged government to raise wages to a decent level and approximate the wage increase to the estimated family living wage.

Nonstop Price Hikes

Adding to the urgency of a wage increase, a labor research group said, is the fact that the combined wage increases in the past decade had been totally eroded within only eight months by nonstop price hikes under the Aquino administration.

The Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER) said that from the start of Aquino’s term in July 2010 up to February this year, the real value of the P404 (US$9.39) minimum wage in the National Capital dropped by around P7 (US$0.16) This decline cancels out the net increase in the real value of minimum wage under the Arroyo administration from 2001 to 2010, which amounted to only P5 (US$0.11).

EILER’s computation is inflation-adjusted using 2000 as base year.
“President Aquino has just dethroned former president Arroyo, beating her record as the worst ‘eater’ of workers’ wages. Since July 2010, skyrocketing commodity prices coupled with stagnant wages have eroded workers’ wages in lightning speed, which is unmatched by the previous administration,” said EILER executive director Anna Leah Escresa.

She said that the wage erosion comes as no surprise as local pump prices have increased more than ten times since the start of year while the prices of almost all food commodities have also risen.

” There are also looming power and water rate hikes. Such record erosion of wages points to the government’s callousness in calling on Filipinos to wait for the inflation to reach five percent before the government can approve any wage increase,” Escresa said.

Government Should Take Care of its Employees

In the meantime, labor groups are determined to press for their economic demands no matter what Malacañang says.

The Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE) said that it would continue their campaign for a P6,000 ($138) increase in the monthly minimum pay of all public sector employees.

“True to its character, the Aquino administration is skirting the issue by saying that its hands are tied because of the Salary Standardization Law 3 which mandates a staggered wage adjustment scheme for state workers. For the country’s rank-and-file government employees who are already struggling to survive amid the rising costs of commodities, the issue is already beyond the SSL 3. We all know that it allowed only the smallest pay adjustments and failed to provide immediate economic relief to the lowest-paid government employees. We will continue to press for a P6,000 salary hike,” said Courage President Ferdinand Gaite.

Gaite was referring to Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda’s statement that the administration was “limited by law” and therefore unable to act upon the employees’ demand for a substantial wage increase.

Gaite said that as their employer, the government should prioritize the needs of government employees. He said that the Aquino administration should prioritize measures that will give the working people much-needed economic relief.

“At the time when our wages are pegged at near-starvation levels, we don’t need dole-outs, subsidies or excuses, we demand a substantial wage hike now!” Gaite said.

Gaite said that their group was also fully behind the call of private sector workers for a P125 across-the-board daily wage hike. The Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) is at the forefront of the campaign for the wage hike.

Gaite slammed the price hike, saying “Government employees, like the majority of the Filipino people can no longer cope with the rising prices of commodities and services. As it is, we are already struggling to subsist on our meager salaries. With this recent oil price hike, most of the country’s 1.4 million government employees are living in abject poverty, are prey to loan sharks and could barely make it to the next day to work. Thus, we have no other recourse but to push for a substantial salary adjustment, this time, focusing on the minimum pay earners or those employees who suffer the most,” Gaite declared.
The labor leader in the meantime also expressed disgust over the Aquino government’s continuing inaction to stop the continuing oil price hikes.

“DOE (Department of Energy) Undersecretary Jose Layug Jr even has the gall to tell us that the fuel firms’ P1.50 hike was already an accommodation of the government’s request to soften the impact of oil price hikes. This attitude of a ranking government official is a reflection of the over-all stance of the Aquino administration when it comes to the oil companies: the oil cartel continuously raises its prices while the government rushes to justify the abuse,” Gaite said.

Gaite said that President Benigno Aquino’s apathy toward the legitimate demands of the labor sector is most lamentable.

“Instead of pushing for band-aid solutions like paltry subsidies available only to selected sectors, Aquino should immediately implement a substantial wage increase for both the public and private sector in order to provide immediate economic relief to the workers and employees reeling from the unabated price hikes, “ Gaite asserted.

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