125 ACROSS THE BOARD WAGE HIKE NOW

Sponsorship Speech on HB1722: An Act Legislating 125 Wage Hike

Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Liza Largoza-Maza

03 September 2008

I am glad that finally, the committee scheduled the deliberation of this very important bill, House Bill No. 1722 or An Act Providing for a P125.00 across the board legislated wage increase for all workers in the private sector. I am saddened, however, that the late Cong. Crispin Beltran, didn’t have the opportunity of sponsoring this bill that has been part of his life and struggle as labor leader.

Almost a decade ago, in 1999, workers went to the streets to call for a P125 across the board wage increase. Then, they brought their call to 11th Congress for proper legislation. Former Congressmen Sergio Antonio Apostol and Oscar Rodriguez sponsored the bills providing for P125 wage increase in behalf of the workers. However, the house leadership failed to calendar the bills.

In the 12th Congress, Bayan Muna Representatives- veteran labor leader Ka Crispin Beltran, this Representation and Cong. Satur Ocampo filed HB 2605. Representatives Rolex Suplico, Buboy Syjuco, Constatino Jaraula and Carlos Padilla followed suit by filing HB No. 2623. In the Senate, Sen. Flavier filed a counterpart bill. The workers found hope when the bill was passed in the committee level. But then again, the bill slept as an item in the Business of the Day and wasn’t passed in the plenary.

In the 13th Congress, the P125 wage increase bill was once again refiled by the progressive partylist bloc. Then Chairman of the Committee on Labor and Employment Cong. Roseller Barinaga also filed a similar bill. The two measures were consolidated into House Bill 345. The consolidated bill was overwhelmingly supported and co-authored by more than 50 of our colleagues. This time, after several mobilizations and lobbying undertaken by the workers outside and inside Congress, it passed the 3rd reading in the plenary. However, after employers and big business groups appealed to President Arroyo and to Congress to recall the passage of this bill, and with the connivance of the executive’s economic advisers, the bill wasn’t immediately transmitted to the Senate. Such act violated the Rules of the House. Months after, it was recalled without basis.

This time, this representation together with other sponsors and millions of workers nationwide hope that this Congress will be more supportive to the workers’ cause. This bill has been long overdue, but with current plight of the working people in the country, this bill is a very timely response if passed immediately.

The wage boards provided a meager increase in the last series of wage orders. For the information of this body, the highest increase in the basic pay approved by the wage boards is P20 and is currently implemented in some parts of Southern Luzon, and here in the NCR after the P5 COLA was integrated to the basic pay last week. However, it is unfortunate that until now, not a single centavo was increased in the basic pay of workers in five (5) regions, namely Region 1, Region 5, Region 6, Region 8 and CAR. Some regional wage boards even treated workers like pre-school kids by giving them COLA amounting to as low as P3!

Meanwhile, even with tax relief, the minimum wage of workers is not sufficient to cope with the impact of skyrocketing prices of basic commodities. The price of rice alone rose by 43% in June and reached 50% increase in July 2008; the price of canned goods, noodles and other food products that serve as the poor’s staple food increased significantly and are not expected to lower down even after the end of the year. The price of LPG increased by around P59 to 72 in a span of 2 months from May to July of this year. As a result, the consumers need to pay 18.6% more this year for a basket of goods that they used to buy last year.

At present, minimum wage earners in the National Capital Region receive a meager P382.00, an amount which is P522.00 below the family living wage for a family of six currently pegged at P904.00. The workers outside NCR suffer from even lower wages.

With the cost of living rising alongside with the prices of basic commodities and services, will this Congress allow the workers to live a starvation-level quality of life? I hope this Congress will be humane enough to the working people of this country.

I am looking forward for the passage of this bill at the soonest possible time. Likewise, I urge my colleagues to support House Resolution No. 552 filed by this representation, urging the President to certify as urgent the P125.00 wage increase bill.

Thank you very much!

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