Aquino to face ‘perfect storm’ for rejecting P125 wage hike

Anakapawis party-list Representative Rafael Mariano today warned of an escalation of workers’ protest in the run-up to May 1, Labor Day, after Malacanang rejected a P125 legislated across the board wage hike for private workers.

“The Aquino administration will be facing a ‘perfect political storm’ this summer. It will brace an escalation of workers protest after its rejection and denial of the workers’ just demand for a substantial wage increase,” says Mariano, main author of House Bill 375 seeking a P125 across the board wage hike for private workers.

Tomorrow, thousands of government employees will march to Malacanang to demand a P6,000 increase in salary. On the other hand, the militant labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) declared May 1 as a “Day of Outrage” in response to the Palace’s rejection of a substantial and legislated wage hike.

Malacañang on Tuesday said that President Benigno Aquino III would not certify as urgent the workers’ more than a decade old demand for a P125 wage increase.

Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang said a legislated nationwide wage hike would cause “inflation pressures” and that “the administration would rather that wage increases be taken up in the regional wage boards rather than in Congress.”

But Mariano said that “Secretary Carandang doesn’t know what he is talking about.”

“Carandang must stop blaming and insulting workers. Prices of oil, electricity, food, and other basic commodities are extraordinarily increasing. From 3.6 percent in January, the inflation rate increased to 4.3 percent in March even without a substantial wage increase,” Mariano said. “Malacanang is obviously echoing the line of big businesses that increasing wages is inflationary to deny workers of a substantial, just, and living wage.”

Mariano pointed out that “increasing workers’ wages will boost their purchasing power, and if employers trim their profit margins instead of passing on higher costs to consumers, inflation will not rise significantly.”

“The regionalized wage settings, in fact, resulted to the distortion of wages,” Mariano said adding, “aside from different minimum wage from one region to another, giving the task of studying, fixing and raising wages to Regional Wage Boards, has caused minimum wages to remain grossly inadequate to support decent living standards and underscores government failure to provide economic relief for workers.”

Mariano also assailed Carandang’s denial that Mr. Aquino had supported the measure when he was still a congressman.

“It’s either Aquino doesn’t know the measure he was voting on, or he just ride on during the voting on the legislated wage hike bill during the 13th Congress. But, what is certain is that Carandang did not check the facts first. The records of the House won’t lie,” the Anakpawis lawmaker said.

The 13th Congress’ Journal No. 34 dated December 20, 2006 when House Bill 345 or the P125 wage hike bill was voted upon on Third Reading showed that the bill garnered a total of 151 affirmative votes that included Aquino’s vote, no negative votes, and no abstentions. But on January 22, 2007 the wage hike bill suffered a setback when a motion for reconsideration of the approval of House Bill 345 was raised by Cavite Rep. Jesus Crispin Remulla.