Thursday, April 14, 2011

Despite impending wage hike Pinoy workers face dim prospects under P-Noy

14 April 2011

Despite the labor department’s assurance that a wage hike is imminent with the wage boards ruling on the existence of “supervening event” that warrants wage adjustments, workers face an even bleaker prospects under the Aquino administration, the labor group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) said. 

“Though absolutely necessary, a wage hike in the country does not necessarily lead to enjoying a happy life for a worker’s family as wages in the Philippines remain at starvation level while working conditions deteriorate further,” PM chair Renato Magtubo said.

The labor group argued that unless the government comply with its constitutional mandate to provide workers a family living wage (FLW),“wage levels in the country shall remain as such – a starvation wage just enough to make workers available for work the following day.”

PM has been proposing that the current wage fixing mechanism is replaced by a new system that would institutionalize living wage based on the current cost of living as the principal criterion for determining the basic minimum wage.

Living wage is defined as the amount of family income needed to provide for the family’s food and non-food expenditures, including a 10% proportion of "other components" to allow for savings/investments, according to the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC).

The latest figures (September 2008) posted at the NWPC website puts the FLW in the National Capital Region (NCR) at P917 a day to as high as P1,322 in the ARMM region.

Partido ng Manggagawa’s own estimate in 2009 puts it at P1,000.  The present minimum wage in NCR, however, is only at P404.  This means that the P125 or P75 proposed wage hikes can in no way cover this huge cost of living and income gap.

“There is clearly a mismatch between the actual needs of workers and their level of income.  This is because the present system puts more premium on the ‘capacity to pay’ of an employer rather than the ‘capacity to buy’ of a worker,” explained Magtubo.  

And even if there is no strong correlation between wage hikes and impact on productivity, employers usually threatens the government to defer any wage adjustments or file unnecessary exemptions to avoid compliance.   

“I would suppose that P-Noy is even clueless about this kind of reality as he has the capacity to buy a toy car in a snap,” quips Magtubo.

Another problem, the former partylist representative said, is that wage hikes cover only less than half of the employed and more unlikely for a quarter of them who are working as part time. The other half of employed persons lives on their own either as self-employed or as unpaid laborers. 

On the other hand three million Filipinos are completely out of work, notwithstanding the exodus of returning OFWs who are expected to swell the rank of the country’s unemployed.

Magtubo likewise added that with President Aquino recent ruling on the legality of outsourcing and contractualization at the Philippine Airlines, thousands of workers shall be downgraded into contractuals and therefore shall receive lesser pay and much lesser benefits compared to what they should enjoy as regular workers.

These conditions, he said, illustrate the most likely scenario in the world of work under the Aquino administration –  a “business as usual” policy maintained while attacks on labor rights intensify.

“Is cheap and flexible labor going to be the same policy to be pursued by the P-Noy administration?  Indications are getting clear – his ‘tuwid na landas’ leads us straight back to the same failed road of freeing labor from the clutches of poverty and exploitation,” concluded Magtubo.

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