Workers call for minimum wage hike and ‘ayuda,’ not Cha-cha
The workers and the poor need wage hikes from employers and a new round of cash assistance from the government to cope with the spikes in prices of food and job losses.
With prices of meat and vegetables seeing a steep price last month while many more were laid off in the last quarter of 2020, what the working poor and unemployed Filipinos need is immediate relief through a combo—umento mula sa kapitalista at ayuda mula sa gobyerno.
We are calling for a P100 across-the-board wage hike for workers to recover the lost purchasing power since the nominal wage of P537 in Metro Manila has already been eroded to P434 in real wage terms, according to the National Wages and Productivity Commission. The sharp decline in the purchasing power of wages is happening in other regions, too. For example, the nominal wage of P394 in Metro Cebu has already been eroded to P320 in real wage terms. Families of the unemployed and informal workers should also be given a cash assistance of P10,000 a month.
Expenses for food comprise half of the budget of poor Filipinos, thus the price hikes have a grave impact on nutrition, hunger, and well-being. Before the pandemic, our own cost of living survey already reached P1,300 a day, more than double the P537 minimum wage in
Metro Manila. We have advocated for the “Apat na Dapat” set of measures to address the gap in wages and cost of living: wage hikes, social security subsidies, tax exemptions, and price discounts. In this light, we challenge Congress to drop the Charter change bid and instead discuss the legislation of a minimum wage hike and appropriation of cash aid for the poor.
In consideration of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses and workers are merely demanding recovery of the value of their real wages and not a real wage increase. When the pandemic is over, workers will fight for their share in the fruits of their labor. From 2001 to 2016, labor productivity grew by at least 50 percent, yet real wages did not grow at all. Even before the pandemic, inequality was worsening due to the stagnation of real wages while productivity was booming. But the pandemic has worsened inequality as workers and the poor have been devastated more than employers and the rich.
Poor Filipinos are reeling from the double whammy of job losses and price increases. No wonder the number of Filipino families going hungry ballooned to 7.6 million, according to the September 2020 Social Weather Stations survey. This is almost double the 4.2 million hungry families in May at the height of the lockdown. This is due to the combination of forced leaves, mass layoffs, and price hikes. Thus, cash must be put in the pockets of the working poor, the jobless, and the hungry.
This combo measure is similar to the stimulus program of newly elected US President Joe Biden, who has announced a $15 per hour minimum wage together with $2,000 in checks for taxpayers. The Philippines should act just as boldly, since we have been ravaged as much as the United States by failed policies to contain the pandemic.
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