Workers begin 10-day countdown to wage increase

BULATLAT FILE Photo by Fred Dabu/ May 1 in Manila

By MARYA SALAMAT
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — Days before May 1 Labor Day, the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) reiterates its call for a pay hike. “Increasing the minimum wage from Php537 to Php750 will significantly lessen the gap between the current earnings and the family living wage,” the national labor center said in a statement today.

“Pres. Duterte has given concessions to US and Chinese businesses, but he has yet to grant a significant wage increase to millions of Filipino workers before Labor Day during his term,” KMU chairperson Elmer Labog said.

The KMU leader said the workers’ demand for a pay hike represented just 75 percent of the amount required to ensure a family of five can live decently. “Php750 will at least allow hard-working Filipinos to eat three meals daily,” he explained. The KMU bases their data from the study of the independent think tank IBON. It said a family of five needs to earn at least Php1,004 to live decently.

From 2009 to 2017, the labor productivity observed per worker in Metro Manila increased from Php 456,059 to Php 614,297, a 35 percent improvement. But the KMU notes that the minimum wage in NCR increased by only 11 percent in the same period.

“The wealth we produce goes mostly to big businesses, while we workers get only crumbs. Granting our demand for Php750 national minimum wage will not only help us cope with high prices of basic commodities, it will also somehow move us closer to getting a fair share of the fruits of our labor,” Labog said.

This coming Labor Day, the group demands a stop to “paying workers lip service.” Instead, Labog said, they are demanding social justice.

“Increasing the national minimum wage is possible and not something that will burden the businesses. A Php750 minimum wage will cost the employers Php132 billion, or just a 14.6 percent cut from their profits,” Labog explained.

“Compared to the 35% labor productivity growth, 14.6% of their profit is such a small amount to be given to those who actually worked hard for business to grow and thrive,” Labog added.

KMU also asserted that the slowing down of the inflation in recent months should not be used as an excuse to deprive workers of a wage increase.

Inflation no excuse to reject pay hike

The Php25 increase ordered last year in NCR to mitigate the price hikes translated to a mere 4.9 percent increase in minimum wage, yet, the record high inflation in 2018 peaked at 6.8 percent in October. KMU said the last pay hike has not really increased nor even adjusted the wage rates to catch up with inflation. In short, the wages that they already considered as too meager are being shrunked further by inflation and other hikes in prices.

While the inflation rate is down to 3.3 percent in March 2019, the prices of commodities remains high, Labog said. As an example, he cited the price of rice which has become Php3.00 more expensive than this month last year.

“To top it all, the price of petroleum products increases almost on a weekly basis,” Labog said.

“The quality of life under this administration is getting worse,” Labog concluded.

“Today the 10 day countdown to Labor Day begins. We will see how Pres. Duterte responds and how candidates support the clamor for wage increase,” he concluded.

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