Trade Unions Getting Ready for Another Round of Battle for Wage Increases

Submitted by fidel, Labour News Network, 02 August 2000

In spite of the rosy picture painted by President Estrada on the national economy, the grim reality of the raging economic crisis continue to hound the lives of the Filipino workers.

Several rounds of oil and petroleum price increases combined with steep devaluation of the Philippine currency have eaten away whatever the worlers have fought for in terms of wage and salary increases—whether government conceded or in their collective bargaining agreements (CBAs).

Trade unions and labor organizations belonging to the Manggagawa para sa Kalayaan ng Bayan or MAKABAYAN (Workers for National Liberation), a new trade union center, decry the Estrada government's insensitivity to the economic plight of the Filipino workers.

Wages are already pressed low due to government's adherence to neo-liberal economic policies, one of which is 'cheap and docile labor' intended to lure in foreign direct investments especially in designated low wage special economic zones (sez). The paltry nominal sum paid by foreign monopoly capitalists to a highly productive work-force cannot buy the minimum daily requirement needed by a working-class family to live decently (PhP456.70 per day), avers Primo Amparo, the organization's spokesperson.

MAKABAYAN also noted that the 14% unemployment rate, the highest in the country's history is an added factor pulling down the nominal wage rates.

MAKABAYAN is battling for a PhP160.00 per day increase in wages and salaries. Further, such increase must be legislated, accross the board and implemented on a nationwide scale. Amparo further said.

The present wage setting mechanism in the Philippines is through the regional wage boards, tripartite bodies set up by the government in the different regions in the country. Thus wages of workers and employees in the different regions differ and vary according to some set of econometrics set by the government.

Such wage-setting mechanism only tends to favor foreign direct investment and in effect catalyzes competition among the workers in the different regions given a backdrop of high unemployment. adds Amparo.

MAKABAYAN has launched a nationwide campaign for wage increase last July 24. Among its demands are to stop contractualization of labor, further oil price increases and a rollback of petroleum prices. The PhP160.00 daily increase must be legislated, nationwide and accross the board.