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Nation Celebrates First Labor Day Under P-Noy

MANILA, Philippines (May1 2011) - The country celebrates its first Labor Day under the Aquino administration today with calls from the labor sector for President Aquino to uplift their standard of living.

The Philippine National Police went on full alert as part of its security preparations for today’s celebration, anticipating a huge rally dubbed as the People’s Day of Outrage Protest from the labor sector.

The Migrante-Middle East has demanded the implementation of the P125 across-the-board salary adjustment to enable Filipino families to somehow cope with the rising cost of living.

“The Aquino government can’t conceal the real economic situation of the Philippines under this young regime,” noted Migrante-Middle East’s John Leonard Monterona.

He claimed there are “relevant facts” that could attest to the worsening condition in the labor front, including the country’s increasing unemployment rate, which was about 7.1 percent in January 2011; increasing number of urban poor and squatters; corruption in government and the growing numbers of jobless and the increasing cost of living.

“A family with six members needs to earn P960 daily while many of the workers are only receiving a minimum wage of P420 a day,” Monterona added.

He said the Aquino administration is also dependent on the remittances of the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to keep the economy afloat.

“Because of this, the government is intensifying the export of cheap Filipino labor. Grinding poverty left no other option to many disgruntled workers and farmers, and new graduates looking for work abroad will end up as construction workers, domestic helpers, and others hoping to be employed in the service sectors,” he said.


He, however, warned that demands for foreign workers abroad is dwindling because of the “shrinking and very competitive labor market, the deepening global financial crisis, and internal strife in the North African and Middle Eastern countries.”

“(An) increasing numbers of prospective Filipino migrant workers would be facing a hard time getting a job abroad amid the burden of numerous government fees and charges imposed on aspiring OFWs before finally leaving the country for work,” he said.

Monterona charged that just like in the previous administrations, the Aquino government, “in its less than a year in office, by all indications will miserably fail to uplift the condition of the Filipino workers.”

A balancing act

Regional Tripartite, Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) Cordilera official Teodoro Delson said labor groups’ demand for a P125 wage is possible, “but it can only be done on a staggered basis.”

“The RTWPB is not deaf and blind on the welfare of the working sector but they also need to balance the needs of the employers’ sector as well. We understand an increase is needed but we need to balance in accordance with the requirements of Congress,” Delson said.

In its most recent meeting, the RTWPB-Cordillera ruled out any immediate need for a hike this year, following a P12 increase imposed earlier this year.

The board said the increase as far as transportation cost and basic commodities are concerned have been minimal.

Employers’ representatives who appeared at the meeting said the price of commodities remains stable and residents can still cope with the recent oil price increases.

Instead of hikes in wages, the RTWPB is convincing employers to consider giving non-wage benefits to their workers that include medical and dental benefits, paid sick leaves, pension plans, educational benefits, full-time work instead of offering part time to avoid providing benefits, maternity and paternity leaves, child care assistance and paid vacations, among others.

But the militant labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU)-Cordillera disagreed with the labor department and the RTWPB that there is no supervening condition that would necessitate a wage increase.

The current minimum wage in the Cordillera Region stands at P260, which is not even half of the P972 daily cost of living for a family of five, it said.

“The immediate passage of House Bill 735 that shall give a legislated P125 wage increase across-the-board and across-the-nation will give the workers and their families immediate relief from their heavy burden,” Leonida Tundagui, KMU-Cordillera spokesperson said.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz refused to preempt the announcement that will be made by President Aquino in today’s celebration but clarified there would be no pronouncement on salary adjustment.

But despite this, Baldoz said that the President gives utmost priority to the “strengthening of the foundation of inclusive growth” in all government sectors.

Inclusive growth pertains to the “sustained growth that massively creates jobs, draw the vast majority into the economic and social mainstream and continuously reduces mass poverty.”

It is the main direction of the government’s 2011-2016 Philippine Development Plan.

Baldoz added that President Aquino might make a statement about the labor sectors that need support, including the agriculture industry, which has been neglected by the past administration.

Meaningful laws eyed

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said the government must not just focus on approving measures that have long-term benefits for the workers but also on the enhancement of the overall quality of life.

In his Labor Day message, Belmonte stressed that the House of Representatives is working on approving measures that have long-term benefits for the workers and for the nation’s economy in general.

“Today we salute the Filipino workers both here and abroad for their valuable contributions towards building our nation,” he said. (