Paltry ‘wage hike’ is Duterte’s insulting farewell potshot to workers

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The recent so-called wage hike of P47, to be given in tranches, in Southern Mindanao is without question the final straw that breaks the horse’s back for workers across the region. It is the insulting apex of the US-Duterte regime’s anti-worker legacy that failed miserably in ensuring the welfare of the Filipino working class.

To say that the wage hike is insufficient is truly an understatement, as it brings the new minimum wage to barely half of the present daily cost of living for a family of five, pegged at around P1,180. Worker families face even more difficult times ahead, what with the almost weekly increase in the price of petroleum products that directly affects the prices of commodities and services.

Not only is it miniscule in the face of steadily declining socio-economic conditions exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, the wage increase will most certainly amount to nothing considering the rate of inflation besetting the economy. Under the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board’s order, industrial, manufacturing, service and agricultural workers in Southern Mindanao will have to wait until January 1, 2023 for the second tranche of a P16 increase to be added to their daily wages. By this time, prices of basic commodities and services will have skyrocketed that the supposed wage increase would prove to be even less in real value.

Expectedly, bourgeois compradors and their foreign capitalist partners are quick to decry the already paltry mandated wage hike. The greedy parasites argue that the region’s business sector is “yet to recover” from the effects of the pandemic, despite gleefully boasting that the region’s economy grew by P48.8 billion to P882 billion by end of 2021. It is to no one’s surprise that they denounce any kind of wage increase, however small, since their superprofit-grabbing inclination always runs counter with the interest of workers to achieve livable wage and live decent lives.

The scruple of a wage hike yet again displays the Duterte regime’s subservience to imperialist neoliberal control, considering it has provided stimulus packages for companies even before the pandemic began. Several times since Duterte became president, the region’s imperialist-dominated banana export industry had been infused with billions following typhoons and other calamities.

Adding insult to injury, during the pandemic, the regime allocated relatively bigger assistance to these companies compared to the mumhocrumbs it gave as relief to poor working families. Loans extended to medium and small enterprises increased from P68.52 million in 2020 to P298.1 million in 2021 in order to spur production. Aside from direct financial assistance, ordinances for taxes levied against business in Davao City were also laxed, even as the regime proposed even more taxes to the masses.

In comparison, the Duterte regime’s relief and subsidies to the millions of workers in the region remain negligible. In as rare a fashion, the regime only gave a couple cans of sardines, packs of instant noodles and a few kilos of rice to a few thousand agricultural workers living outside Davao City. These, despite the billions in debt Duterte racked up in less than two years to supposedly finance his regine’s bungled pandemic response.

Meanwhile, soldiers belonging to the 10th Infantry Battalion continue to enjoy the favor of Duterte’s fascist state with significant salary increases, multiple benefits and free services, such as the recently announced “Alagang Agila Program,” an added healthcare program for its troops and their families.

Slave wages notwithstanding, workers in the past few years bore the brunt of Duterte’s state terror and anti-labor policies. They struggled against various forms of labor flexibilization, especially during the pandemic, when employers worked them to the bone with exploitative adjustments in hours and working conditions. Their unions, the very few that still remained, were subjected to different schemes of union busting and unfair labor practices. Worst yet, their members fell victims to red-tagging and other forms of harassment.

The AFP’s vilification campaign, spearhead by the NTF-ELCAC, in particular, has resulted in the failure of workers and peasants to ensure genuine representation in the reactionary Congress during the May elections. In many parts in Southern Mindanao in the run-up to May 9, masses reported that troops under the 10th Infantry Division held numerous meetings of “people’s organizations,” attendance to which were compulsory, but were in reality campaign sorties for Bongbong Marcos and Sara Duterte and against progressive partylists which the enemy called “fronts of the CPP-NPA-NDFP.”

In light of this new attack to their livelihood, workers across the region and the country must therefore reject Duterte’s “parting gift” as an insult to their sweat and sacrifices and mobilize to demand nationwide living minimum wages across the board. Revolutionary unions in Southern Mindanao are one with the working class in its struggle for higher wages, job security, unionization and humane working conditions.

In his six years in power, Duterte never saw Filipino workers, along with the peasantry, as the true producers of the nation’s wealth, much like his predecessors. His populist promise to end labor contractualization was nothing but a joke, as his parting crumb of a wage increase definitely is.

Paltry 'wage hike' is Duterte's insulting farewell potshot to workers