A labor NGO questions the timeliness of the constitutional change (cha-cha) amidst low wages and high inflation rates. The concern comes after the airing of the TV ads by Pirma group and signature campaigns urging support for cha-cha.
According to Pirma, economic growth is stunted due to the restrictive constitutional provisions on foreign land and equity ownership and relaxing such provisions will lead to growth. However, EILER in its study on Special Economic Zones (SEZs) explained that such was not the case. The labor NGO said that decades of foreign direct investments (FDIs) being poured on these zones did not lead to any significant industrial expansion in the Philippines. Worse, these zones are notorious for repressive labor policies, inhumane working conditions, and low compensation.
“Charter change should be the least of our lawmakers’ concerns. The government must focus its resources and time in addressing gut issues of workers such as low wages, high prices of basic commodities, and widespread job insecurity, among others,” said Rochelle Porras, Executive Director of Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER).
Monthly salaries of minimum wage earners fall below the monthly poverty threshold across all regions in the country. In NCR, the minimum wage workers only earn on average PhP 13,218 monthly while the poverty threshold is at PhP 13,741. This means that workers’ wages are barely half of the living wage standard set at PhP 25,839.
“Worker’s wages cannot catch up with the prices of basic goods. The inflation rate for 2023 is at 6 per cent, higher than the 5.8 percent last year. Low wages are further stunted by rapidly increasing prices,” added Porras.
EILER noted that the real wages in NCR stagnated relatively since 2002. Real wage refers to wages adjusted for inflation. The real wage in Metro Manila is at PhP 496 in 2022, barely higher than the PhP 490 in 2002. In the case of B/ARMM where regional rates are the lowest, the real wage is at PhP 294 only in 2022 and is even lower than the 2002 rate at PhP 298.
“Congress is empowered by law to legislate pro-people policies without the need to amend the Constitution. We express our strong support to the solons who have authored bills for the implementation of living wages, as well as to the labor groups who have long been petitioning for wage hikes. We call on the Marcos, Jr. Administration to regulate oil prices, suspend excise taxes and to tax the super-rich,” Porras said.