The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights strongly criticized Malacañang’s recent statement rejecting the P125 wage hike pointing out that the Palace’s computation is flawed and misleading.

CTUHR Executive Director Daisy Arago said “Malacañang is misleading the public by multiplying the proposed wage hike to 38 million. The total Php 1.6 T is definitely flawed because not all employed Filipinos are wage and salary workers. In fact, nearly 50 percent of the employed population are own account and unpaid family workers who do not get wages for their work and are therefore not covered by the proposed wage hike.”

Arago also criticized President Aquino for contradicting his earlier speech saying that workers’ needs and welfare should be considered by employers, “It is utterly contradictory, if not mere lip service to the workers, to say on the one hand that workers’ welfare is paramount but on the other hand reject their call for substantial wage hike.”

Arago was referring to a speech delivered by President Aquino last March 16 in an Anvil event where he “virtually lectured” employers about the value of keeping the workers’ morale high by considering their needs and welfare. A few days later, Malacanang made a statement saying that the proposed P125 wage hike which is now being heard in Congress for legislation, is “too high” and “not practicable.”

“President Aquino should listen to his own words and see how big companies in the country have greatly profited at the expense of the working poor,” Arago avers. She further explained that a P125 wage increase is possible if only companies would be willing to slash their profits. She cited a study of Ibon Foundation that showed that a P125 across the board wage hike is only 17 percent share of the companies’ overall profits in 2010.

Very much needed increase

“Needless to say, a substantial wage hike is very much needed by the Filipino workers especially now that oil prices have gone up 9 times already since January 2012. The daily cost of living in the National Capital Region is already Php 1008 and the minimum wage of P426 does not even cover half of it.”

Arago also shared that most of the workers they have interviewed complain that their meager income can no longer afford a nutritious meal for their family. Most of the families have also converted to using coal for cooking instead of LPG because LPG prices are now as much as P1000 per tank.

“Poverty alleviation programs of the administration,” Arago said “did not significantly improve the lives of the poor. Proof to this is the continuous increase of hunger incidence in the last quarter of 2011 from 21.5 percent to 22.5 percent. Definitely, 4Ps is not the alternative to the workers call to higher wages. Some of the CCT beneficiaries we have talked to, especially those residing in remote areas, said that the amount they receive is only enough to buy rice for a few days.”

Arago insisted that a substantial wage hike is just and timely and that aside from this, the government should also lift or at least cut the EVAT on oil products and other basic commodities, “These are just and doable demands of the people. If the Aquino administration will remain obstinately against these demands, then it is true that the straight path he promised do not lead to the betterment of the majority of the Filipinos.”

Pre-empting legislation

Arago also expressed worry that Malacanang’s statement in opposition to the P125 wage hike is pre-empting the legislation of Anakpawis sponsored House Bill 375, a bill that proposes to increase minimum wages by P125 across the board. “After many years, the 125 wage hike bill is finally gaining ground in Congress and we are pleased that the [HOR] Committee on Labor is seriously considering its passage into law. It worries us though that the executive, by expressing their opposition—however crude their argument has been—is seemingly signaling its allies in Congress that the bill should not pass legislation.”

Arago thus appealed to the members of Congress to continue supporting the bill despite Malacanang’s categorical opposition to a legislated wage hike, “We call on the members of the Congress to be one with the workers and immediately pass this bill. The Filipino workers have long demanded for a substantial wage hike. It is a legitimate call and it is the most effective relief our Filipino workers can get amidst increasingly difficult times.”###