By Nelson Flores, Ll.B., MSCK
THE Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino accused the government and capital owners of blackmailing the Filipino workers to prevent them from “getting what is their due for their contribution to economic progress.”
The BMP specifically cited as proof of its claim the fear mongering of Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno. In a recent statement, Diokno claimed that a daily minimum wage of PhP750 (US$14.28/day based on today’s exchange rate of PhP52.49) demanded by labor would lead to massive unemployment.
The budget chief is “echoing the old and tired capitalist blackmail line of unemployment, in order to scare the workers from demanding what is due to them in exchange for their contribution to economic progress,” the BMP said.
Necessary Price not just Supply and Demand
BMP President Luke Espiritu said “Diokno claimed that the PhP750 wage is higher than the supply and demand, but our dear economist should be reminded that market forces play a secondary role in price determination; prices are principally determined by the necessary costs in order to produce a commodity”.
“What are the necessary costs to produce and reproduce labor power – the commodity sold to employers in exchange for wages? It is none other than the cost of living. Because, in order to work productively, workers need the basic necessities of decent living – food, shelter, clothing, education for their children who are the next generation of the labor force, savings for emergency expenses and long-term needs such as retirement and elderly care,” Espiritu explained.
“The necessary price of eight-hours of labor power is the cost of living, which amounts to PhP1,200 (US$22.86) for a working class family. The demand for the PhP750 national minimum wage is below the family living wage, as the labor movement considered the reaction of the employers sector, the buyers of our commodity. In so doing, labor has negotiated in consideration to the market forces, particular to the demand for labor,” the labor-lawyer added.
Double-Standard in Price Determination
The BMP, at the same time, also criticized the double standard in wage-fixing.
“Wages are but a special name for the price of a particular commodity – labor power. Ask any manufacturer on how prices are determined and the reply would be: ‘price is cost of production plus profit’. When prices are going up, they would say that it was caused by the increase in the price of oil, which is almost always present in the production and distribution of a commodity,” Espiritu explained.
Moreover, he lamented that “when workers demand higher wages because of the increase in the prices of our necessities (food, transport, etc.), we are told that we are being illogical and inconsiderate. Workers are not asking for any profit. We just want wages to be commensurate to our expenses to produce our labor. What we have is a double standard in price determination.”
Labor Unity to fight for a P750 National Minimum Wage
Meanwhile, the BMP called on the trade union movement to unite and fight for a PhP750 minimum wage.
“We are now seeing a unity ‘from above’ as broad coalitions have been formed in the fight against contractualization. The next challenge is to convene the broadest forum of labor leaders from local unions, who are most affected by the recent price hikes and who are most in need for stronger collective actions from below, to demand the repeal the regressive TRAIN tax packages and to enact a price control policy for all basic commodities,” Espiritu said.