By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – This week marks the last nine session days before Congress takes a recess for election campaign. As such, workers led by labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) tried to remind the lawmakers not to leave behind their years-long demand for Congress to immediately pass the P125 across-the-board wage hike bill. The said bill has finally garnered the House Subcommittee on Labor Standard’s nod last Jan 18, after it was subjected to a Luzon-wide consultation in La Trinidad, Benguet. It was the committee’s last stated requirement before giving the bill its approval.
The workers now called on House Committee on Labor and Employment headed by Northern Samar Rep. Emil L. Ong to fulfill its promise of immediately creating the committee report on House Bill 375, also known as the P125 Wage Hike Bill, and submitting the report to the House plenary for possible deliberation and voting.
Ong had said the last consultation, this Luzon-wide one, was required after all long after the Mindanao-wide and Visayas-wide consultations were held. Ong said after this Luzon-wide conference, the committee could submit its report on P125 wage hike bill to plenary.
In their picket, workers carried umbrellas bearing their calls at the gates of Congress in a bid to make it more visible to legislators and passersby.
Long-delayed wage hike
Workers through progressive partylists led by Anakpawis first filed a bill for a P125 across-the-board wage hike nationwide more than ten years ago. “Workers need it now more than ever. Filipino workers need some form of immediate relief from the prices of basic goods and services that have soared through the years,” Roger Soluta, KMU secretary-general, said.
KMU cited an April 2012 study of independent think-tank Ibon Foundation showing that the gap between the minimum wage in the National Capital Region, the highest in the country, and the cost of living has widened in the past 10 years.
“Over the years, wage increases granted by the country’s regional wage boards have lagged farther and farther behind increases in the prices of basic goods and services. What workers need now is a significant wage hike, which is only possible through legislation,” Soluta added.
KMU cited an April 2012 study of independent think-tank Ibon Foundation showing that the gap between the minimum wage in the National Capital Region, the highest in the country, and the cost of living in the region has widened through the years.
The study showed that the NCR minimum wage was 52 per cent of the Family Living Wage in 2001 and became a mere 43 per cent of the latter by the end of 2011.
“Because of the growing disparity between the minimum wage and the cost of living, workers’ families have been suffering from worsening poverty and hunger,” Soluta said. Minimum-wage earners, he said, suffer also from indebtedness and lack money for education and hospitalization.
Apparently it has become customary now for many workers to try to bridge the gap between paydays through loans with varied interest rates. Workers become intimate clients of small moneylenders, as they pawn their jewelries, electronic gadgets and appliances and even their future wages as represented by their automated teller machines.
“We would like to emphasize that, in many companies, wages constitute only a small section of the overall production cost. The wage hike that workers have been clamoring for amounts to a small reduction in capitalists’ profits, which have been increasing over the years,” Soluta said.
Against record profits every year, the Aquino government and big capitalists are urged to stop “spreading the lie that a significant wage hike will cause massive unemployment and high inflation.” Soluta reiterated that the workers are suffering from hunger and poverty and they deserve a significant wage hike now.