April 15, 2011
While prices of basic goods and services keep on rising, the government’s calculation of Family Living Wage (FLW) remained at 2008 level, provoking curiosity from the labor group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM).
According to the group, the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC) website contains all the necessary information on wages, except on FLW estimates which has never been updated since September 2008. The link to the site has been “under construction” since then.
“Was it arbitrary on the part of the government to put an embargo to this very important information? If it cannot even update its figures how much more in complying with the Constitutional mandate of providing labor the right to a family living wage?,” lamented PM chair Renate Magtubo.
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.
The NWPC’s September 2008 figures put the FLW estimates in the National Capital Region (NCR) at P917 a day to as high as P1, 322 in the ARMM region. PM’s own estimate put it at P1, 000 in 2009.
Magtubo said the NWPC may have opted to “reconstruct the truth” to hide or mask the ever widening gap between real wage and the living wage. NWPC calculated the real wage value of the P404 minimum wage in NCR at PhP239.76. It cannot be compared to the current FLW since new numbers are missing.
“For this evidently clear act of omission labor has the right to call for NWPC’s abolition together with the equally hopeless regional wage boards,” argued Magtubo.
A regular and timely estimate of FLW is important since it shows the movement of a family’s current cost of living relative to its income thus must be principally considered in making wage adjustments.
In fact first on the list of the 10 criteria for the current minimum wage fixing is the workers’ demand for living wage which includes not only the right to recover the lost value of their wages but also improvement on their living standard.
“The truth is there is clearly a mismatch between the actual needs of workers and their level of income because the present system puts more weight on capitalist’s ‘capacity to pay’ rather than on labor’s ‘capacity to buy’,” explained Magtubo.
Magtubo said the country’s wage levels remain at “starvation level” since the PhP125 and PhP75 demand, even if granted, can only cover about half of a worker’s actual needs.
Aside from pressing for a wage increase, PM has also been proposing for the replacement of the current wage fixing mechanism by a new system that would institutionalize living wage as the principal criterion for determining the basic minimum wage. It wants a new National Wage Commission mandated with this new framework take the place of the regional wage boards.