Noynoy dared: Address labor problems

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — HE has not even filed his certificate of candidacy, but Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III is already besieged with challenges that could confront him once he is into the presidency.

Aquino, who declared his intention to run for president in the 2010 elections on Wednesday, was dared yesterday to address the problems in labor, including unemployment and the long demand by workers for legislated wage increases.

The challenge was hurled by militant Rep. Joel Maglunsod of Anakpawis, who urged Aquino to include in his reform agenda the granting of legislated wage hike to the country’s workers and the reinstatement of a national wage board.

“It’s high time to reverse the mistakes of the past,” he said, adding that he is presently reviewing the lawmaker’s pending bills in the Senate seeking to increase the penalties for non-compliance to the wage increase rates.

Maglunsod said that it was during the administration of the senator’s mother, the late President Corazon Aquino, that the “Herrera Law” of the Wage Rationalization Act (Republic Act No. 6727), principally authored by former Sen. Ernesto Herrera, was passed.

“While we recognize that minimum wages increased five times during the time of Mrs. Aquino, wage rationalization turned out to be the curse of Filipino workers,” he said.

“Regional wage boards have stunted local wages and increased the gap between wages in industrial areas and provinces and the nominal wages and actual daily cost of living needed by our local workforce,” he added.

Since the daily wage level was increased to P89 in 1989, Maglunsod said “workers’ salaries were pegged to the floor and the regionalized system of wage determination undermined the Filipino workers’ fight for a national minimum wage.”

He also reminded the senator that the past eight years of the present administration has failed to substantially increase the daily wages of Filipino workers, claiming that the regional wage boards granted only P132 increment in wages, mostly in the form of emergency cost of living allowance.

The congressman also urged Aquino to address the perennial problem of unemployment, which is “one of the greatest failures of the Aquino administration.”

“Past administrations all bowed to the interests of foreign capital and maintained a cheap and docile work force. We need to see real, concrete changes. Noynoy will have to face the grim realities besetting the local labor and employment situation. It will take much more than political will for him to reverse or even correct systemic problems of the Philippine economy,” Maglunsod said.