Philippine govt readies nonwage benefits
President Benigno Aquino III would meet with labour leaders in a breakfast dialogue on Tuesday, but the country’s workforce shouldn’t expect any announcement of wage benefits, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.
“Well, the president is going to sit down with them in the usual dialogue with labour and to also help Secretary (Rosalinda) Baldoz appeal to the workers’ sector … to wait for the unveiling of the package. That’s nonwage benefits,” Valte said.
Valte said the public should withhold comment on the package until this is presented.
Before the Palace unveiled the package of nonwage benefits, Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) described the minimum pay in the country as “starvation wages”.
“The minimum wage cannot buy a working class family its daily bread. The Constitution mandates that a worker receive a living wage. Instead, the regional wage boards prescribed a libing (burial) wage,” PM secretary general Judy Miranda said in a statement sent to the Inquirer.
The group said its own study of the cost of living for a family of six in Metro Manila showed that it had already reached 1,217 pesos (US$29)a day.
“This estimate shows that the gap between the 456-peso minimum wage in (Metro Manila) and the present cost of living is a yawning 761 pesos, or 167 per cent of the ordinary wage. Even if both parents work—which is the buy-one, take-one policy of the government—then their combined income will not be enough to feed the entire family,” Miranda said.
The group’s cost of living estimate did not provide for savings and social security, which in the government’s basket of goods and services constitute 10 per cent of the cost of living.
Miranda said the study did not include items such as leisure and recreation, and the family budget for health excluded medical expenses.
“If we include such items, and we must in a more accurate survey, then the cost of living will significantly exceed 1,200 pesos per day,” she said.
She added that “the National Wages and Productivity Council’s cost of living estimate of 917 pesos in 2008 is hopelessly outdated in light of this study and in the face of continuing inflation.”
The militant labour group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), which is usually not invited to the breakfast dialogue with the president, is gearing up for Labour Day protest rallies that would include the burning of Aquino’s effigy.
KMU chairman Elmer Labog said the president was condoning increases in power and water rates, in prices of oil and other basic goods, and the privatisation of public hospitals.
“The burden on the Filipino workers and urban poor is getting more and more unbearable because of Aquino’s subservience to the dictates of the United States and of his big capitalists cohorts,” Labog said.
Officials of the moderate Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) vowed to raise unmet labour issues and “jobless growth” on Tuesday’s pre-Labour Day breakfast with Aquino at the Heroes Hall.
“On top of the agenda is this so-called jobless growth. There has been a pronounced improvement in the economy but this growth does not translate to generate opportunities for employment,” TUCP secretary general Gerard Seno said in a statement.
In 2012, the country posted a 6.6-per cent gross domestic product growth compared with Thailand’s 6.4 per cent, Indonesia’s 6.2 per cent, Malaysia’s 5.6 per cent, Vietnam’s 5 per cent and Singapore’s 1.2 per cent.
But citing the National Statistics Office, the TUCP said there were 2.89 million unemployed Filipinos and 7.934 million underemployed Filipinos in January 2013.
The “all-time high” underemployment rate in six years was recorded in July 2012 at 8.55 million, it added.
Besides the big number of unemployed and underemployed, poverty incidence in the country has remained unchanged over the past six years despite economic growth.
Poverty incidence in the first semester of 2012 stood at 27.9 per cent, “practically unchanged” from 28.6 per cent in 2009 and 28.8 per cent in 2006, the National Statistical Coordination Board announced on April 23.
The high poverty incidence showed that the benefits of economic growth were not trickling down to the poor.
Valte said that the last time she checked, the unemployment rate was going down. “We see that the trend is going down,” she said.
70 job fairs
As part of Labour Day celebrations, the Department of Labour and Employment would open 70 job fairs in the country’s 16 regions on Tuesday, she said.
“So there are over 400,000 jobs that will be available—both local and overseas job opportunities that will be available in the 70 job fairs. And we encourage everybody to go to those job fairs and see what these have in store for you,” she said.
The TUCP said that high on the agenda of Tuesday’s dialogue with the President were issues such as employment and job creation, contractualisation, social protection, right to self-organisation and collective bargaining, wage increase, tripartism and social dialogue, and labour dispute settlement.
In a paper submitted to the Tripartite Industry and Peace Council, the Associated labour Unions-TUCP recommended that the administration:
– Prioritise the creation of “decent” and productive employment.
– Ensure approval of the security of tenure bill.
– Direct labour officials to review outsourcing policies in the banking sector and other industries.
– Set up a commission on industrial policy.
– Craft a clear industrial policy.
The KMU said it was preparing a mural and an effigy that would be showcased on May 1. The mural, measuring 15 by 24 feet, depicts Aquino dressed as a clown and hounded by workers, peasants, urban poor and other sectors while hanging on an airplane piloted by US President Barack Obama.
Created by painter and printmaker Orlando Castillo, former president of the Art Association of the Philippines and founding member of the Concerned Artists of the Philippines, the mural will be unveiled at a programme in Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila.
Other artworks by various artists will be highlighted on Labour Day, according to Labog.
“They depict suffering and lies being inflicted on the Filipino workers by President Noynoy Aquino,” he added.
Labog said Castillo’s mural “also shows the growing anger of the Filipino people against Aquino’s antipoor policies, betrayal of the people, and puppetry to the US. Anger at Aquino’s propaganda stunts aimed at deceiving the public is intensifying.”
The 10-feet tall effigy being created by artists from UgatLahi Artist Collective depicts Aquino and Obama as two serpents around an electric post.
The concept was inspired by the symbol for universal healthcare, according to KMU.
The effigy would be burned at around 5 pm at the Chino Roces bridge (formerly Mendiola) in Manila to mark the closing of this year’s labour Day protests.