"The way to fight poverty is to create jobs, not destroy them..."
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, SONA, 2001
CHIZ LAMENTS ESCALATION OF LABOR WOES UNDER ARROYO; URGES SENATE ACTION
The Philippine labor sector continues to suffer from neglect and indifference because of the government's wrong sense of priorities in employment generation and job security, opposition Sen. Chiz Escudero said yesterday.
At the same time, the 39-year old lawmaker reiterated his call for the Senate to convene as a committee on the whole to discuss a package of measures ranging from tax breaks and incentives for workers and employers to help them ride out the current economic crisis.
In his SANA (Sana Napatupad ni Arroyo) message, Escudero said the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has addressed the country's labor problems with lip service rather than long-term strategy and policy.
"Sana binigyan ni Pangulong Arroyo ng sapat na trabaho ang Pilipino, trabahong kayang magbigay ng sapat na kita para tugunan ang mga pinakamahalagang pangangailangan tulad ng pagkain," Escudero said.
He said a fourth of the country's labor force – 25 percent or 9.5 million Filipinos – is now either not earning enough or out of work. Last year, unemployment stood at 7.5 percent of the labor force or 2.83 million jobless Filipinos while underemployment was at 17.5 percent or 6.62 million.
The Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics reported that the country's work force stood at 37.824 million as of April 2009.
"The minimum wages of our workers fall far below the living wage prescribed by the National Wages and Productivity Commission. Government policy has obviously failed to address this tragic condition," Escudero said.
"Ang mga pinangako ng pangulo mula noong naupo siya ay napako na, at ang ating mga manggagawa ang naging kawawa sa patuloy n'yang pag dead-ma sa problema," he added.
The senator also accused the government of failing to prioritize labor legislation. President Arroyo has prioritized only four pro-labor legislative measures despite over 700 measures filed in the House of Representatives.
Escudero aggressively pushed for the passage of Republic Act 9504, which exempts minimum wage earners from paying income tax.
He also filed Resolution 1029 last April urging the Senate to take up a package of measures ranging from tax breaks and incentives for workers and employers to help them ride out the current economic crisis.
"The Senate must now do its part by initiating measures that will help the nation not only to ride out this crisis but to ensure a quick and steady recovery," he said.
Among the core measures in Escudero's eight-point proposal are a viable subsidy program for all displaced workers; a tax refund for all wage and salaried earners equivalent to two months of their salary; and the extension of Philhealth coverage for displaced domestic and overseas workers.
It also proposes condonation of penalties and interests for low-cost and socialized homeowners and tax deductions and other incentives for employers who increase salaries and benefits within a set period.
The plan also seeks the creation of programs to encourage entrepreneurship among workers and the grant of incentives to strengthen local industries such as BPOs and other knowledge-based industries, and expand the country's employment program by diversifying the areas where training programs may be implemented.
Department of Labor and Employment figures show that 40,000 workers have already lost their jobs since October last year while a total of 120,000 have been affected by layoffs, rotations, reduced working hours and reduced incomes.
"Hindi biro ang pang-daigdigang krisis na ito. The Philippine economy is now projected to contract. Ngunit patuloy na ginagawang biro ng pamahalaang Arroyo ang pagsasaayos ng mga suliranin ng mga manggagawa," Escudero lamented.
Meanwhile, the opposition senator said the Arroyo government's indifference to the labor sector had resulted in violations of trade union rights.
"According to the International Trade Union Confederation's 2007 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights, the Philippines is now the second most dangerous place in the world for labor leaders," Escudero said.
The 2007 survey revealed that 33 labor leaders were slain, while 220 trade unionists were affected in 130 separate incidents.
SANA (Sana Naipatupad ni Arroyo) Totoo Series
(In time for the ninth SONA of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, opposition Sen. Francis Joseph "Chiz" G. Escudero presents his take on her performance in realizing her administration's avowed core agenda – food security, good governance, jobs, and education. In the SANA-TOTOO series of articles (video), Sen. Escudero contends that President Arroyo failed to deliver on her promise in all four key areas.)