Davao workers press for the legislated 125-peso across the board wage increase

Jul. 28, 2008

DAVAO CITY Edwin Fernandez works as a forklift operator in Davao Goldstar Hardware in Lanang — the biggest hardware store in the city.

As a regular worker in the last two years, he works there from Monday to Saturday, and occasionally on Sundays, when a ship arrives from Luzon, carrying the supplies, like steel and cement, that his company ordered.

Rizaldo Protacio, a worker for the cargo handling facility Filipinas Port Services, Inc., says his salary could hardly support his family because of the rising prices of commodities. Port workers like him only have work when a ship arrives from Luzon. Ships loaded with sacks of flour, cement or fertilizer stay for 13 days, at the most; while ships loaded with steel stay for at least two days. Protacio says he only get to work 2-13 days a month. In other days, he had to find other means to support his family. (davaotoday.com photo by Jonald Mahinay)

But Fernandez, 37, said his 280-peso take-home pay for an eight hour work each day is not enough for his family’s expenses. He’s married with three kids, aged 10, six and two.

Fernandez said he spends 205-pesos, or 73.21 per cent of what he earns, on food. He also spends 30 pesos for his transportation from Tibungco where he lives to his workplace in Lanang and back. His two children–one is in Grade One, the other in Grade Fourneeds P20 for fare to school each day.

His family consumes one-and-a-half kilo rice, which costs as much as P60, each day. The family’s viand consists mostly of fried salmon fish, which costs as much as 80 pesos. His youngest, a two-year-old child, consumes 178-peso worth of milk per week or 25 pesos a day.

They live in a household with no electricity. They only spend five pesos for gas for an overnight use of light. They don’t use gas stove for cooking. They get supplies of oling (coal) from the waste materials of the Davao Central Chemical Corporation plant nearby.

Of the 280-pesos take-home pay, only 20-pesos is left each day for his family’s other needs like medicines, clothing and utilities. But the amount is negligible since other contributions, such as the Social Security System, Pag-ibig and Philhealth, are being deducted from his salary each payday. The company also deducts 150 pesos each week for the company’s cash bondthe sum of which they will receive by the end of the year as their 13-month pay.

On top of these, Fernandez has to pay 730 pesos per month for their lot mortgage and 150 pesos for the family’s monthly water consumption.

“We have to look for ways so we can eat,” Fernandez said. “We even make suman (rice pudding) from our pigs’ feeds (milled rice hull) for our merienda.” His family raises hogs as additional source of income.

He said relatives hand the family a little supply of rice occasionally.

“If they don’t support us, I don’t know what will happen to my family. My salary is not enough for our needs,” Fernandez said.

Fernandez is not alone.

Noel Bongalon, 34, and Rizaldo Protacio, 29, both forklift operators at Filipinas Port Services (Filport) in Sta. Ana wharf said their 278-peso take-home pay is not enough for their daily expenses.

Bongalon said his family spends more or less 500 pesos per day for their needs. He is married with four children, aged 12, nine, one and three months. Protacio also said his salary could hardly support his wife and two children, aged one and seven months.

Bongalon and Protacio work as regulars in Filport for at least nine years now. As workers, they only earn something when a ship arrives 2-13 days every month. If no ship arrives, they look for other means to sustain their needs. They go fishing in the nearby wharf and sell their catch in the market. Sometimes, they vend fruits for a living.

According to the June 2008 statistics of the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC), a family of sixthe average household member of a regular Filipino familyin the Davao region, needs 760 pesos a day to live decently.

But the current minimum wage in the region is only 265 pesos–short of 495 pesos for a family’s living wage per day.

Workers have been demanding for an increase in the minimum wage to make ends meet.

The Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May First Movement) has been pushing for the 125-peso legislated wage hike since 1999. A family’s living wage back then was still 379.51 pesos ($9.71 at the year’s average exchange rate of $1:P39.09), or 196-peso short of the minimum wage of 184 pesos.

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