A Step Forward in Wage Fight, Amid Repression and Violence

Jan. 01, 2007

2006: Davao Today's Year-End Series

The approval of the P125 wage increase bill by the Lower House is welcome news for workers, who could use even just a little relief from soaring prices of basic goods and services amid rock-bottom income. It is a gain that came at the price of trade union repression and political killings that victimized labor leaders among others.



The P125 wage (hike) bill has finally been approved by the House on third reading at past 8 tonight by a vote of 151-0!

Bayan Muna (People First) Rep. Teddy Casio, a former staff of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May 1st Movement), was evidently elated as he sent around this text message barely three hours before midnight on Dec. 20. And he had reason to rejoice: The bill providing for a P125 across-the-board, nationwide wage increase to private-sector workers had, after all, been pending at the House of Representatives since 2001.

The bills main sponsor, Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Crispin Beltran, was no less elated, and for equally good reason.

This is a victory for all Filipino workers who have campaigned long and hard for the passage of this bill, Beltran said in a statement issued from his room at the Philippine Heart Center in Quezon City, where he has been confined for 10 months under police custody. This is recognition for all their efforts.

Beltran has been mightily leading the campaign for the passage of the bill as early as 1999, when the KMU of which he used to be the chairperson first made the call for a legislated P125 across-the-board, nationwide wage increase. It was he who, as a Bayan Muna representative, introduced the bill at the House in 2001.

Wage discrepancies

That the P125 wage increase bill has finally been approved at the House is indeed welcome news for workers, who have for several years been reeling from low income amid continually rising prices of good and services. Though P125 is no longer enough to bridge the gap between income and costs of living, considering how the prices of prime commodities have jumped since 2001, the working segment of the population can nevertheless use even a little relief.

Based on data from the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC), the daily living wage for a family of six the average Filipino family now stands at a national average of P674.93 ($13.70 based on an exchange rate of $1:P49.28) as of October 2006. Of the countrys 15 regions, the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has the highest family living wage, with P1,005 daily.

Conversely, the daily minimum wage has been standing at a national average of P283.67 since mid-2005, NWPC data further show. The ARMM has the lowest daily minimum wage at P170 a difference of P835 from its daily family living wage as of October 2006.

The required living wage for an average Filipino family was in 2001 a far cry from what it is now. That year, it stood at a national average of P445.53 ($10.89 at an exchange rate of $1:P40.89 in 2001), based on data from the NWPC. The highest regional minimum wage then was in the National Capital Region (NCR), which was pegged at P250. At a national average, however, the daily minimum wage that year stood at P222.42, based on data from the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE).

Even then, a P125 across-the-board, nationwide wage increase would have been insufficient to bridge the gap between the minimum wage and the required family living wage. An additional P125 would have brought up the 2001 daily minimum wage to P347.42 which is P98.11 short of what an average Filipino family needed to survive daily that year.

Should the P125 wage increase bill fare as well in the Senate as it did in the House of Representatives, the national average family living wage will go up to P408.67. That would still be P266.26 short of what the family of six would need on a national average to survive daily, based on October 2006 data from the NWPC.

Just the same, this would be tantamount to relief that workers could very well use. That would still be a significant narrowing of the gap between income and costs of living.

Getting it was definitely not a walk in the park, and yet there remains a considerable obstacle to hurdle.

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