Militants push P125 wage increase

Published by rudy Date posted on May 2, 2011

MANILA, Philippines –  Militant labor groups pressed yesterday for a P125 across-the-board wage increase, rejecting President Aquino’s Labor Day package of non-wage benefits as merely “band-aid solutions.”

Led by Anakpawis and Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), the groups slammed the President’s offer of increased benefits from Pag-IBIG, PhilHealth, Social Security System (SSS) and Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).

Traffic snarled in key roads in Metro Manila as hundreds of workers marched to Mendiola outside Malacañang to press for wage increases among their other demands.

They also burned an effigy of Aquino and a cardboard replica of a Porsche, saying the purchase of the luxury car was a sign of his insensitivity to the plight of laborers amidst calls for austerity.

KMU spokesman Elmer Labog said the President’s offer of non-wage benefits “will not dissipate but will only ignite the outrage over the extreme exploitation and oppression of Filipino workers.”

Labog stressed the need for a significant wage increase amidst rising prices of basic goods and services, and petroleum products.

“The pressing down of wages, the rolling back of job security, the lack of jobs and livelihood, and attacks on trade union rights have intensified through the years. It is an outrage that seeks immediate and genuine economic relief in the coming days, weeks and months,” Labog said.

The militant group went as far as warning of a “possible ouster movement” should the Aquino administration fail to act on labor sector concerns.

CBCP also thumbs down non-wage benefit

An official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) criticized the Aquino government for choosing to offer non-wage benefits to ordinary workers instead of granting them a salary hike.

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, chairman of the CBCP’s National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace, said the government’s announcement of non-salary compensation would not be enough.

“The problem is that the prices of everything increase, so there should also be an increase in workers’ salaries because most of these non-wage benefits do not help the workers, particularly the non-regular workers,” Pabillo told reporters at the sidelines of the World Youth Day Fun Run in Pasay City.

He said Aquino’s refusal to heed the workers’ call only proves that he is protecting the capitalists’ interest over those of the workers.

Protest caravan

In Zamboanga City, militant group Akbayan celebrated Labor Day with a protest caravan.

Akbayan regional chair Edgar Araojo, who led the protest caravan, called on the local and national government to protect the defenseless workers from the “casualization scheme” being implemented by different employers and companies.

The militant group also slammed the exorbitant fuel prices in the city compared to other places in the country.

“We have our priorities wrongly implemented, the stomach of the people can no longer bear with the price increases. Let us feel that the government is on our side and something must be done as we can not longer tolerate the economic dislocation,” Araojo said.

The group likewise criticized the labor department for holding a job fair, saying it is only helping employers “promote casualization.”

But Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) regional director Ponciano Ligutom said the job fair aims to fill in at least 20,000 job vacancies in the region, with18,000 for overseas job employment and 2,000 for local hiring.

The labor official assured workers that they are also looking at complaints of alleged unfair compensation by some local employers.

Ligutom said the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board is expected to meet and discuss data that would support the possible increase of wages, depending on supervening conditions.

Improved quality of life for workers

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said concern for workers should not be focused on wage increases but “much deeper measures to address concerns that relate to an improved quality of life.”

Belmonte said the 15th Congress should try to improve the quality of life of workers and the people in general by addressing the “more fundamental issues” like socialized health care, retirement benefits, housing and transport, and other concerns “that all contribute to a proper working environment.”

He pointed out that as economic and political crises abroad prompt many Filipino workers to return home, resulting in less foreign exchange remittances, the government should “look for new models to address our economic development.”

“Let us make this day a time to recognize and pay tribute to our workers who serve as the backbone of our nation. A lot is still left to be done to uplift their status and condition in our society, and that is what we want to do in this 15th Congress,” he said.

“Today we salute the Filipino workers both here and abroad for their valuable contribution towards building our nation,” he added.

Belmonte noted that Labor Day is officially celebrated in over 80 countries and unofficially in many more, and that the Philippines started celebrating it in 1903.

Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, meanwhile, sought the amendment of the “antiquated” Labor Code to define the work rules of tens of thousands of workers in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector and various fields of information technology.

“Our Labor Code does not cover the ICT sector, which is right now the prime generator of jobs and the prime driver of economic innovation. This alone is a reason for an urgent congressional effort to tailor the code to the needs of the times,” he said.

The global and forever shifting nature of employment requires an adequate response from Congress through a modern labor law, Evardone said.

He called for a bicameral, multi-party initiative to update the Labor Code. – With Helen Flores, Roel Pareño, Jess Diaz, Edu Punay (The Philippine Star)

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