Monday, June 7, 2010

'P22 NCR wage hike an insult to workers'

'P22 NCR wage hike an insult to workers'*

MANILA, Philippines - Several groups on Tuesday decried the decision of the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board-National Capital Region to grant a P22 increase to the minimum wage of workers in Metro Manila, more than 2 years after the last wage order was issued.

Kilusang Mayo Uno vice-chairman Lito Ostares said the P22 wage increase was an "insult" to minimum wage workers who have long fought for a substantial wage increase.

"No one is happy with this decision except for the [Employers Confederation of the Philippines] and the government. For us workers, this is a big insult. It's not even enough to buy a kilo of rice. One kilo of rice is worth P28 to P32, the type of rice that people can eat," he said in a radio dzMM interview.

Ostares noted that President Arroyo has never implemented a substantial wage increase since she became President in 2001. He noted that their group is still asking Congress to implement a P125 across-the-board wage hike, which was first filed in 1999.

Similarly, the Left-leaning research group IBON said President Arroyo now has the distinction of having the longest-running term since President Ferdinand Marcos but has seen the smallest increase in workers’ real wages over the last nine-and-a-half years.

"The real wage in February 2001 or the start of the Arroyo presidency was pegged at P237, which implies an increase of just P5 over her term. The nominal wage in February 2001 was P250," the group said in a statement.

IBON said salaries of minimum wage workers increased by P82 during the Aquino administration, P16 over the Ramos administration, and P22 over the Estrada administration. It said real wages increased during the Aquino administration from P121 in February 1986 to P203 in June 1992, during the Ramos administration from P201 in July 1992 to P217 in June 1998, and during the Estrada administration from P216 in July 1998 to P238 in January 2001.

"The supposed momentum of 36 straight quarters of economic growth has been accompanied by an unprecedented flattening, over nearly a decade, of real wages. The outgoing Arroyo administration has the triple distinction of presiding over the fastest economic growth, highest unemployment and lowest wage increase over its term since the Marcos dictatorship," the group said.

Ostares denied the argument made by employers that increasing wages would lead to more layoffs. He said interviews done by KMU with small and medium-sized enterprises showed that salaries only take up 16%-22% of operational costs.

"During our talks with SME employers, their biggest expense is not wages but power," he said.

Previously, the labor group Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) filed with the wage board a petition for a wage increase of P75 across the board for workers in Metro Manila.

The Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), however, said a P75 wage increase will hamper the job creation process and will only help a small fraction of the population.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has also said that a P75 wage hike would hit the country's inflation forecast. BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said the central bank considered only a P25 a day rise in wages when it made its two-year inflation forecast of 4.7% for 2010 and 3.6% for 2011.

"[The] TUCP is disappointed at how little the RTWPB thinks workers deserve. While we do not wish any more delay in the implementation of the wage decision, we will file a petition for reconsideration regarding this heartless decision," the labor group said.