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Workers hit P456 minimum ‘starvation’ wage

By Christine F. Herrera | Apr. 29, 2013 at 12:03am
A militant labor party on Sunday dismissed the P456 minimum wage as “starvation wages” since the cost of living for a family of six in Metro Manila had already reached P1,217 a day.

“The minimum wage is not a living wage but a libing [burial] wage,” said Judy Miranda, secretary general of the Partido ng Manggagawa.

“It cannot buy a working class family their daily bread.”

Gabriela Reps. Luz Ilagan and Emmi De Jesus, meanwhile, attacked the Aquino administration’s new “two-tiered wage system” that sets a floor–level wage for new and low-skilled workers, and a second tier based on productivity and performance, which may be negotiated between the employer and the workers.

“The two-tier wage system sets a “floor wage” cheaper than the current minimum wage,” the lawmakers complained in a joint statement.

As of March, 13 of the country’s regional wage boards, including Metro Manila, have ordered the implementation of the two-tiered wage system, the lawmakers said.

They also said the Aquino government had lowered the poverty threshold per Filipino per day from P52 to P46, and replaced the contents of the food bundle with the cheapest alternatives, so people who used to be “food poor” are now out of that category, even if their food intake has not improved.

Both lawmakers called for an end to the administration’s wage freeze and demanded a legislated minimum wage increase.

De Jesus added that workers saw through the government’s efforts to make the new wage system appear as an opportunity for them to earn more.

“Who are they fooling?” she said.

Ilagan said the “productivity-based second-tier” would bleed workers dry with higher quotas, higher demands and more exploitative working conditions.

“Women workers will suffer most,” Ilagan said.

The Palace on Sunday reiterated that there would be no increase in the minimum wage to mark Labor Day this year.

Instead, President Benigno Aquino III will hold a dialog with workers groups on Wednesday to discuss non-wage benefits, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.

“We appeal to workers to wait for the unveiling of the package of non-wage benefits during the dialog,” Valte said. “We hope they will listen to what we have to present to them before they reject it outright.”

Earlier, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said the department intends to give a package of non-wage benefits such as affordable housing for minimum wage earners in government agencies.

Baldoz said this would benefit Manila-based state workers because “40 percent of their income is spent on house rentals.”

She said scholarship grants from the Social Security System and the Government Service Insurance System will also be offered.

The department last approved a P30 wage hike in the National Capital Region in May last year.

Last year, Mr. Aquino marked Labor Day with a speech where he expressed reservations on a consolidated bill on security tenure for workers that aims to end the practice of contractualization by strengthening union organizing and collective bargaining.

The President also rejected a proposed P125 across-the-board legislated wage hike, saying this would force companies to close shop.

Mr. Aquino said a legislated wage increase would result in wage hikes amounting to P1.4 trillion, which is almost a fourth of the country’s P8 trillion economy.

Miranda on Sunday released PM’s own study of the cost of living for a family of six in NCR that reveals it has already reached P1,217 a day.

“This estimate shows that the gap between the P456 minimum wage in the NCR and the present cost of living is a yawning P761 or 167 percent 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 constitutes 10 percent of the cost of living.

The PM figures also do not include items such as leisure and recreation, or a family budget for health and medical expenses.

“If we include such items, and we must in a more accurate survey, then the cost of living will significantly exceed P1,200 per day,” Miranda said.

“The National Wages and Productivity Council’s cost of living estimate of P917 in 2008 is hopelessly outdated in the light of this study and in the face of continuing inflation,” Miranda said, noting that the agency has not updated its estimate in the last five years. With Joyce  P. Panares
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