A brief overview of the position of certain senatorial candidates on the workers’ demand for wage increases and the end of contractualization.
By DOMINIQUE GUTOMAN
Graphics by Ipe Soco
MANILA — At some point in 2016, then-newly installed President Rodrigo Duterte said he wanted equal pay for the country’s workers in a bid to decongest Metro Manila. But not only has a national minimum wage not been achieved in the past six years, but the Duterte administration is also the only post-Marcos administration with both the fewest wage increases and the highest wage increases. lowest ever recorded.
Thus, those who run for public office promise to raise their salaries. But how much is enough? And are there concrete plans to achieve this?
Looking at the available public statements of some senatorial candidates, almost all of the candidates promised higher wages to Filipino workers. However, the proposed solutions are apparently lacking, especially as more and more Filipinos need extra pay to make ends meet and the formation of unions, which allow workers to negotiate their pay and benefits , takes a deadly turn. Here trade unionists were red-flagged, illegally arrested (i.e. Human Rights Day 10) and even extrajudicially killed (i.e. a series of assassinations of trade unionists in the southern region of Tagalog).
Among the selected senatorial candidates, five progressives and labor leaders expressed support for a national minimum wage. This will essentially abolish regional wage councils and remove the wide wage gap between the Philippine capital and the rest of the regions.
“Congress has delegated its power to set minimum wages to regional wage commissions. This has led to a race to the bottom, with regions trying to compete with each other by lowering wages to attract investors and eroding workers’ real incomes. This has created a situation where minimum wage workers cannot even earn enough to provide for their families’ most basic needs,” said former lawmaker and human rights lawyer Neri Colmenares.
Besides Colmenares, the other four senatorial candidates pushing for the same are former lawmaker Teodoro Baguilat, human rights lawyer Chel Diokno and labor rights advocates Luke Espiritu and Elmer Labog.
The long-awaited national minimum wage
For Diokno, he said regional wage commissions have indexed the minimum wage to the poverty line rather than the actual cost of living. This salary, he added in a 2018 interview, will allow workers and their families to live a decent life.
“This is wrong and unfair. We want our workers not only to survive, but to escape poverty,” he said.
Labog and Espiritu, on the other hand, pointed out how long overdue the national minimum wage is. Espiritu, however, said the wage increase was unrealistic, with the government and big business saying they would lose profits.
The majority of senatorial candidates said they were advocating for a regional salary increase. They are: Jojo Binay, Sherwin Gatchalian, Risa Hontiveros, Robin Padilla, Gilbert Teodoro and Joel Villanueva.
Binay urged regional wage commissions to immediately investigate and resolve requests for wage increases, saying “the sooner these requests are processed, the sooner we can provide assistance to minimum wage earners.”
Gatchalian stressed in 2016 that wage increases “be high enough to help families escape poverty traps.” Padilla, on the other hand, said Filipino families should receive at least 25,000 pesos ($477).
Senatorial bet PDP-Laban Teodoro said he was in favor of localized remuneration because there are “different situations” in the provinces.
There are other senatorial candidates who are proposing alternative mechanisms other than salary increases. Francis Escudero said Richard Gordon was both offering tax relief, while Harry Roque was pushing for a 10-hour, four-day working week.
On job creation and the end of contractualization
Almost all of the selected candidates said they support calls for an end to contracting and push for job creation.
Colmenares said ending contracting should be part of the COVID-19 response.
Diokno stressed that it is important for the government to distinguish between legitimate outsourcing and those who abuse labor rights through contracting. Escudero, on the other hand, said in 2018 that the government was the biggest violator of worker tenure security.
“It may happen that there are contracts, and work orders in the Philippines are not accepted. Nagsimula kasi ‘yan noong ang gobyerno nationalization plan,” Escudero said in 2018.
Espiritu said recruitment agencies should be abolished because of their “parasitic” relationship with employees and that workers should be hired directly by employers.
“Lack of secure tenure makes contract work undecent, because that’s where their families’ future lies. We want the contracting to end,” said workers’ rights leader Labog.
Four of the selected senators – Legarda, Hontiveros, Villanueva and Zubiri – co-authored Senate Bill 1826, which seeks to end contracting. This bill was, however, opposed by President Duterte in 2019.
Three of the senatorial nominees selected have an unclear stance on contracting, with Gatchalian citing “uniqueness” and “peculiarities” in different companies where contracting has varying elements. At the same time, Tulfo has expressed its desire to “review the laws” on contracting to guarantee job security for workers.
There is no data available for Lacson, Roque, Trillanes, Teodoro and Villar regarding their position on contracting. (JJE, RVO)