Private, public workers unite for a national wage law

By JOEL CAPULONG
www.nordis.net

BAGUIO CITY — Despite the struggle of the working class to urge the government to enact a decent wage for every Filipino worker in the form of a national minimum wage sixty four years ago, the salaries for both private and government workers are still far below the minimum required budget to survive.

In 1951, due to the strong and widespread protests to call on the government to provide a national minimum wage, the government was forced to enact a law on a “minimum wage” with a very limited scope because government and agricultural workers were excluded in the said law. Although it was limited, it was still a victory at some level because some workers were receiving “minimum wage” to cope with poverty. But thirty eight years later, another bogus “minimum wage” was born. The ghosts of the Wage Rationalization Act (WRA) and the Salary Standardization Law (SSL) have started to haunt the workers.

The Wage Rationalization Act

All workers nationwide since 1989 have been receiving a “Regional Minimum Wage.” The Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Boards (RTWPB) which are composed of representatives from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the company management and the employees unions, was created to determine minimum wage rates applicable to their region. Here in the Cordillera Administrative Region, the existing minimum wage for non-agricultural workers is P260 and an additional P20 Cost of Living Allowance. Although the DOLE is reiterating that all establishments should follow the law, many agricultural and other so called “small entrepreneurs” do not follow this.

In an earlier interview at the ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol Northern Luzon, DOLE-CAR Assistant Regional Director Erwin Aquino said that all employers should pay their employees the required minimum wage.

Meanwhile, Paul Belinan of the Cordillera Labor Center said that despite the existence of the WRA, many private businesses in Baguio City are not complying with it. The case of Novo Baguio is a concrete example where the workers are being violated by not receiving the P280.00 regional minimum wage.

“There are 43 employees of the establishment, all are females. A saleslady receives P200 while a bagger gets P210 and a stockman, P230. They are forced to report from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm except for the stockmen who are forced to be in their posts until 1:00 am,” Mr. Belinan said.

Milking the cows

In this case, the workers are clearly being abused. “Profits are not only coming from the sales, but also from the unpaid labor. This is happening not only here in Baguio City but also in the whole Cordillera and other regions nationwide. In fact, 46% or 22.2 million from the total 38.1 million workers nationwide are receiving below the set minimum wages,” he added.

Because of this, seventeen Novo employees individually filed Single Entry Approach (individual cases) at the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) in January 2010. Instead of resolving the problems by paying the workers their unpaid overtimes, eleven of them were terminated.

Salary Standardization Law

Republic Act No. 6758 or SSL was signed by then Corazon C. Aquino in 1989, the same year when the WRA was passed as counterpart in the government sector. Under the General Provisions, higher percentage of increases would be given to lower level positions and lower percentage increases would be given to higher level positions. After the implementation of the SSL1 and 2, the gap between the family living wage and the salaries became worse because of the “tranche” scheme. The SSL3 in particular was divided into 4 tranches in 4 years.

Family Living Wage

A study to formulate a family living wage (FLW) was started by the National Wages and Productivity Commission in 1997. But the government itself realized that this can be used to determine the gap between the present wages and the actual needs of every Filipino family.

In the recent study of the Ibon Foundation, a family with 5 to 6 members need at least P32,580 per month to cope with the skyrocketing prices of basic commodities. The present minimum wages under the WRA and SSL are not enough to provide even just the basic needs of a family.

National Minimum Wage

The P16,000 demand by the All Workers Unity (composed of the Kilusang Mayo Uno, the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees and the Alliance of Concerned Teachers) is just half of the present FLW. Whether or not the government will enact a law on a national minimum wage, prices of basic commodities and services will be getting higher. The significance of the call on the government to enact a national minimum wage is very crucial. This will ensure that all workers nationwide will be united as one for the betterment of their ranks. # nordis.net

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