Necessary, possible, positive

Published June 8, 2018, 10:00 PM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Tonyo Cruz
Tonyo Cruz

By Tonyo Cruz


The country’s leading trade unions are again united, this time for a national minimum wage and the abolition of the regional wage boards.

The militant Kilusang Mayo Uno and the Kilos Na workers alliance are campaigning for P750 national wage hike, while the conservative Associated Labor Union-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines has eyed the figure of P800.

All Filipinos who want honest-to-goodness poverty alleviation should throw our support behind these demands of workers that are necessary, possible, and positive to the nation. Let’s support the Makabayan Bloc’s House Bill 7787 which seeks to legislate this national minimum wage into reality.

First and foremost, a wage hike is necessary so workers and their families can cope with the rising cost of living nationwide.

The prevailing minimum wage of P512 in Metro Manila — the highest in the country — falls short by nearly half of the estimated living wage of P973 for a family of five and of P1,168 for a family of six.

True, the proposed P750 or P800 still falls short of the living wage, but either would provide immediate economic relief to workers, especially now when they bear the brunt of new and higher taxes under President Duterte’s TRAIN Law.

Economists from Ibon Foundation fully endorse House Bill 7787, to the consternation of pro-oligarch and pro-Big Business academics and doomsayers.

According to Ibon’s study, having a national minimum wage at P750 is “doable if owners of establishments allow a small portion of their profits to go to their workers instead. Firms and the economy as a whole have more than enough profits to support this.”

Referring to official data from the 2015 Annual Survey of Philippine Business and Industry (ASPBI) of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Ibon economists pointed out that 34,740 establishments employing 20 or more workers have P1.7 trillion in total profits and 4.5 million employees.

“Raising the average daily basic pay of wage and salary workers from the nationwide average of P378.71 to P750 transfers just P473.2 billion to workers’ pockets, which is only a 28.3% decrease in profits. Workers will meanwhile get to take home an additional P8,076 per month on average,” Ibon researchers explain.

Ibon economists also point out that at present “wages are not even keeping up with the rising productivity of workers so their ever-growing contribution to the economy increases employer profits more than improves workers’ welfare.”

Citing the PSA’s Labor Productivity Statistics, Ibon says that the contribution of each worker to total gross domestic product (GDP) increased from P196,179 in 2015 to P198,215 in 2016 or by 2.2 percent.

“This means that the average daily contribution of each worker to the economy amounts to some Php759.44 per day, which is more than double the average daily basic pay and more than the proposed national minimum wage,” Ibon economists say.

In short, Filipino workers have more than earned the P750 national minimum wage by their hard work and productivity.

Per Ibon: A national wage hike will be positive to the economy as a whole, by increasing workers’ purchasing power, stimulating higher production, and increasing economic activity.

The doomsayers — led by Big Businesses and their publicists and academic apologists — have as expected started to demonize the national minimum wage bill.

The trouble with their position is that not only do they not have any solutions to offer to workers. The workers, the middle class, and OFWs know fully well the greed and appetite for profits of Big Businesses.

Big Businesses cannot speak for SMEs who they pound and grind through expensive loans, high rent, high power costs, and unfair competition.

Most SMEs in fact identify more with workers and the middle class than with Big Businesses, because our local and national entrepreneurs depend on the working class and middle class for their manpower needs and market growth. With adequate state support, cheap credit, tax credits or holidays, and other adequate assistance, SMEs would be able to afford to pay workers more.

Workers are not asking more than what they have earned for and in behalf of their employers. They are not asking for free money. They are only demanding a fair share and a fair shake in the form of a national minimum wage, and the abolition of regional wage boards that perpetuate worst poverty in areas where wages are kept low (like ARMM). The experiment of having multiple wage levels around the country has apparently not produced good results in terms of giving workers upward mobility. Coupled with Endo, the current regional wage setup benefits Big Businesses the most.

Elsewhere, the apologists for Big Business laugh at the calls of workers for “sahod itaas, presyo ibaba”. Their arrogant noises beg answers for two questions: If they’re against wage hikes and price controls, what are they for? Should we lower wages and raise prices even further?

And we should point out this early: President Duterte and his administration cannot claim economic growth in the run-up to the SONA, while at the same time argue against workers’ demands for a fair share of economic development. Not unless he wants to confirm that he’s a friend of oligarchs and a foe of workers.