By ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
Oil prices have hit the common Filipinos. Oil Companies increased the prices of oil at least eight times this year if I remember it right. I can count at least 12 times the oil price increased last year. As a result, the people are now left to adopt any remedy to cope with the increases in the price of goods.
As people can barely cope with the skyrocketing prices of goods, workers are pushing for an increase of their wages. As always, the government would turn them to the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB), a creation of RA 6727 known as the Wage Rationalization Act. Since the creation of the RTWPB, its task is to periodically assess wage rates and determine minimum wage rates applicable to each region or industry. It is good to assess though how this government agency has served the workers welfare.
The RTWPB, which has offices in all regions, has been hit by workers groups – at least those for the real workers’ interests. These groups observed that the said office has been proposing wage increases not enough to cope with the increase of prices for goods and services, and in fact have even subjected such proposals to many exemptions (to limit wage increase coverage.)
The body is designed to divide the unity of workers in pushing for unified and common goals at a national level. Workers per region are treated differently by this body, and in most instances, compromises are made at the regional level to silence workers. I had observed that wage increases outside the National Capital Region are lower, as if the goods were cheaper outside the NCR.
Of course, the composition of the board is questionable too as it is composed of a representative from the DOLE, employers, and “workers” groups. The weakness of this body has slowly been revealed. Hence, progressive workers groups are calling for the abolition of the RTWPBs as their interests are not sufficiently represented.
There is another institutionalized process where a wage hike can be done – a legislation by congress. I believe that congress is the most appropriate branch tasked to legislate laws for the benefit of the citizenry. But they have been legislating laws against people’s interests like the oil deregulation, EPIRA, VAT law among others. If the district representatives claim that they represent their district constituents, then they are expected to know the situation in their area, including the workers.
As congress (particularly the House) has been issuing noble statements recognizing the contributions of Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran, not only to workers’ rights, but to the image of Congress as a dependable institution for the poor and oppressed, then they should legislate Beltran’s bill for a P 125 daily wage increase.
The bill could have been passed last year if it were not for the manipulation of some members of the House who had shown their pro-capitalist stance. It already passed the third reading in the said chamber when moves were employed by congressmen to delay its transmittal for its signing into law. Until the recess of Congress came and the May 2007 election recomposed it. Now it needs to be reintroduced by the same author – Rep. Beltran. The Senate should show its concern by passing the same bill without any delay as a show of concern for the working class.
Of course the said amount is not enough to cope with the increase of prices in the past years, including this year, due to oil price increases. But Congress can show that it can make a difference from the woman in Malacanang when it comes to addressing workers’ rights and welfare. Congress should transform their recognition of Beltran’s deeds through the enactment of the latter’s bill for P 125 daily wage increase. The enactment of the said bill will be their noble contribution to Beltran’s unselfish struggle for the workers’ interests. #