President Rodrigo Duterte has declared the year 2019 as the “International Labor Organization Centenary,” documents released by the Palace showed on Friday.
In his Proclamation No. 710, the President recognized the 100th anniversary celebration of the International Labor Organization, a network of countries, in which Philippines remains an active member.
According to the President, the Philippine government, through the ILO’s social partners, which includes employers and workers’ organizations, “reaffirm its full support to and cooperation with the ILO’s mandate of promoting international peace and social justice.
“I do hereby declare the year 2019 as the ‘International Labor Organization Centenary’,” Duterte stated.
The President then tasked the Department of Labor and Employment to “spearhead and coordinate the conduct of programs and activities nationwide relative to the celebration of the ILO Centenary.”
“All other agencies and instrumentalities of the government, specifically those involved in ILO projects, are hereby enjoined, and all local government units, as well as the private secotr, are hereby encouraged to provide the necessary support and assistance to the DOLE to ensure the successful observation of the ILO Centenary and the effective implementation of this Proclamation,” he said.
“The Presidential Communications Operations Office shall lead the campaign of fostering ILO awareness in the Philippines, and promote programs and activities, in connection with the celebration,” he added.
The said proclamation, as ordered by the President, was signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on Wednesday, April 24.
The Switzerland-based ILO, a United Nations agency which seeks to advance social justice, promote decent work, and set international labor standards, was established in 1919.
Meanwhile, five days before the country celebrates Labor Day, workers’ groups filed a petition to raise the minimum wage in the National Capital Region by P213 or to P750.
Currently, the minimum wage in NCR is P537, the highest in the country.
The petitioners are Kilos na Manggagawa (KnM), an organization of contractual workers; Metal Workers Alliance of the Philippines and BPO Industry Employees Network.
“Each day, Flipino workers find it harder to feed their families and survive due to the non-stop increase in the price of commodities and services. It is high time that the government grant a significant wage increase to help ease workers’ burden,” said Jen Pajel, national president of KnM.
IBON research shows that a family of five needs at least P1,004 each day or around P30,000 monthly in order to meet their needs and live decently. The petitioners seek only 75 percent of this amount. Pajel added that a significant wage hike would compensate for the zero real wage growth in the Philippines.
She cited a 2018 report by the World Bank which stated that while labor productivity in the Philippines rose by 50 percent from 2001 to 2016, real wage had zero growth.
“Since 2001, the increasing profits from the hard work of our workers have been enjoyed only the capitalists and the industrial and trade oligarchs. We ask only what is due to workers, a small share for our labor,” said Pajel
KnM added that their petition is just the start of their campaign to raise to P750 the minimum wage in all regions in the country.
“The impact of higher prices is felt all over the country. It stands to reason that we should just have one minimum wage. Our petition today will be replicated in other regions nationwide, while we also campaign for the Government to legislate a national minimum wage” said Pajel.
The labor leader called on unions and other workers’ organizations to file wage hike petitions based on the difference between their region’s current minimum wage and the target of P750. “CALABARZON or Region IV-A which has a minimum wage of P400 should have a wage hike of P350. The Davao Region, which has a minimum wage of P396 should have a wage hike of P354. We shall be filing petitions in other regions accordingly in the coming days,” she added.
The groups also call on candidates to support the workers demand for wage increase.
“Big capitalists’ interest still dominate the legislative arena. Filipino workers are in dire need for pro-labor legislators who are committed to advancing the workers agenda in Congress.” Pajel said.
Meanwhile, Teachers from the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) said it feels no respite in lower poverty and hunger data. The group says the supposed drop in the poverty incidence as reported by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) and in hunger rate according to the latest survey of the Social Weather Stations (SWS) do not indicate an improvement in poor Filipinos’ quality of living.
“Hunger and poverty are real, as evidenced by the deafening grumbling of our families’ stomachs. And the government ought to listen to our plight, instead of priding itself to complacency with these data,” declared ACT National Chairperson Joselyn Martinez as she made noise using cutleries and an empty lunch box during a protest on Friday, April 26.
Martinez hit the Duterte administrations’ pronouncement that the country is ‘on track’ on its campaign to end poverty in the Philippines. She argued that this is ‘at best far-fetched and at worst a gross and deliberate misrepresentation of the country’s economic situation.’ For instance, NEDA cites that poverty incidence for the first half of 2018 decreased by 16.1% for Filipino families and 21% for individuals compared to three years prior. Martinez said that NEDA interestingly fails to mention that the latter part of 2018 saw a record high inflation rate, peaking at a 9-year high of 6.7% on September and October 2018 as opposed to three years prior where it was only at -0.4% and -0.2% respectively.
“This proves that NEDA’s report is no more than state propaganda meant to deodorize the Duterte administration,” Martinez said.
On the other hand, the SWS survey noted that the cited drop in hunger rate was only for the last quarter of 2018 and 1st quarter of 2019, which was when inflation began to dwindle but nonetheless remained to be much higher as compared to pre-Duterte and pre-TRAIN Law times. Thereby debunking government’s claim to progress, ACT said.
“The truth is Filipinos are worse off under Duterte. The state imposition of additional taxes and consistent denial of substantial pay hike to civilian workers are at the root of Filipinos’ economic suffering,” said Martinez.
ACT said that TRAIN Law eroded the value of workers’ salaries. For Teacher I, their 2018 salary of P20,179 only had a real value of P18,282 due to marked inflation, whereas IBON foundation data shows that the poorest families lost Php3,300 to Php7,300 of their income. Despite this, ACT noted, the Duterte administration refuses to initiate a meaningful increase in workers’ pay, other than the ‘pitiful, paltry’ Php25 addition to NCR wage.
“This is a grave injustice to workers who are the backbone of Philippine economy, and it must at once be decisively and aggressively resolved. Implement pay hike now!” called Martinez.
ACT, together with other public and private workers’ organizations Alliance of Health Workers, COURAGE, and Kilusang Mayo Uno, challenged President Duterte to effect a substantial pay hike in time for the international commemoration of Labor Day on May 1. The groups call for a P750 national minimum wage, P30,000 entry-level salary for professionals such as teachers and nurses, and P16,000 salary for salary grade 1 government employees.