Labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno condemned today the call made by the Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines to decriminalize employers’ violations of minimum wage laws, saying this is clearly callous and anti-worker.
In an interview with BusinessMirror last week, ECOP president Edgardo Lacson opposed bills in the House of Representatives seeking to legislate a longer prison term for employers who violate the country’s wage laws, saying the government should do the opposite and decriminalize such violations.
He was reacting to House Bills 942, 1817, 1889, and 2884 authored by Reps. Reynaldo Umali, Emmeline Aglipay, Ben Evardone and Joseph Victor Ejercito, respectively, which seek to extend the penalty of two-year imprisonment to four years for such crimes.
“It seems that the country’s capitalists have become too insensitive to the plight of Filipino workers and too arrogant in asserting their demands to the government. They do not know how workers and their families strive to cope with such a meager minimum wage,” said Roger Soluta, KMU secretary-general.
“Decriminalizing violations of minimum wage laws is tantamount to giving capitalists the green light to press down wages to the lowest possible levels and further impoverish workers. The current minimum wage, meager as it is, is being denied by many capitalists to workers,” he added.
KMU cited an April 2011 research by independent think-tank Ibon Foundation showing that the Metro Manila minimum wage of P404 is only 2/5 of the amount needed daily by Filipino families to live decently, which currently stands at P988. The said proportion in 2001 was 1/2.
Target electric rates, not wages
KMU also said that ECOP should stop threatening the government that such bills, when passed, will push employers to the informal sector, thereby decreasing tax revenues for the government.
“Instead of overreacting to moves to increase penalties on violations of wage laws, as well as to calls for a significant wage hike, ECOP should campaign for the reduction of electricity rates in the country, currently the highest in Asia. Even ECOP members tell us that it is not wages that burden employers right now, but high power rates,” Soluta said.
“Capitalists should stand up to the government and big capitalists in the power sector and stop reducing the wages that workers receive. Because we are faced with intensifying hunger and poverty, we are fighting for a significant wage hike,” he added.
KMU has been calling for the passage of HB 375, filed by Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Rafael V. Mariano, seeking to legislate, a P125 across-the-board wage increase nationwide. Roger Soluta, KMU Secretary General