March 8, 2010
A wage hike and reproductive health were the main concerns raised by women members of the labor party-list Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) in celebration of women’s day. More than a hundred women workers and urban poor held a picket at the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) which was followed by a rally at the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) offices to highlight the two demands.
“The demand for a wage hike and reproductive health set the context for this year’s commemoration of women’s day. The twin issues are appropriate since they frame the productive and reproductive roles of women in the family and society,” explained Judy Ann Miranda, PM secretary-general.
In women’s day activities by PM chapters in the provinces, additional working women issues were brought to the fore. In Cebu, women urban poor trooped to the campout of Alta Mode garment workers in the Mactan Economic Zone for a women’s day program. In Bacolod, women agricultural workers marched to the provincial capitol for a dialogue on the demand for subsidy due to the effect of El Nino. High water and electricity rates and the failure of privatization were highlighted as heavy burden to working women in Davao. Meanwhile in Iligan, PM members joined the women’s day parade that called for the election of the first woman councilor ever in the city.
At the CBCP office in Intramuros, Manila, members of the labor party-list group asked the Catholic bishops to “bless” two baskets of condoms. They then marched to the DOLE where the protesters banged pots and pans to symbolize the call for a wage increase and a revamp of the wage fixing mechanism. From Intramuros the rally went straight to Mendiola via Ayala Bridge, blowing whistles and creating noise along the way to draw attention to the women’s challenge to the candidates in the coming elections.
“We humbly ask the bishops to bless the condoms as a conciliatory gesture to unite for reproductive health and women’s rights,” Miranda furthered. She added that aside from providing contraception, the government should embark on a nationwide education program through the barangays so that women and men learn the many facets of HIV-AIDS, teenage pregnancies, unwanted pregnancies, child spacing and family planning, among other reproductive health concerns.
Miranda also insisted that “A P75 wage hike is reasonable and not excessive but it will not prosper unless President Gloria Arroyo supports it. That unfortunately is the problem with the tripartite regional wage boards because if Malacañang does not give the go signal for a wage hike, the wage petition will be defeated by the combined votes of the employer and government representatives.”
PM wants to abolish the wage boards to give way to a National Wage Commission with the mandate to set a national minimum wage based solely on the cost of living. Miranda argued that “There must a national standard of living that should be matched by a national minimum wage. The wage is the price of the worker’s labor power and as every other commodity in the market its price must reflect its cost of production, which in the case of the worker is nothing else but the cost of living of his or her family.”