Duterte Urges Congress to Pass Wage-Hike Law, Denounces Abusive Companies

May. 01, 2006

There could never be any peace if the people are hungry, Duterte told thousands of workers at Labor Day rally

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By Germelina A. Lacorte

DAVAO CITY — An agitated Mayor Rodrigo Duterte took centerstage at the Labor Day rally here today, Monday, and called on Congress to legislate the long-awaited demand by workers for a 125-peso across-the-board wage increase.

I understand how hard it is for workers to survive at this very difficult time, Duterte said. If companies try to scare us with closures once we increase the workers’ wages, then let them close! If they want to get out of the country, then let them get out! the mayor said, to the delight of the crowd at the Rizal park composed mostly of workers.

davaotoday.com photo by Barry Ohaylan

Duterte said he is not going to defend the Arroyo administration in the wake of protests by workers and other groups because the only way to defend them is to tell them that they have to pass that law increasing the wage of workers as soon as possible to ease the sufferings of workers.

An estimated 5,000 workers — organizers put the figure at close to 10,000 — affiliated with labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and allied organizations from all over Southern Mindanao gathered in three areas (Pryce Tower in Bajada, Magsaysay Park along Quezon Boulevard and Bankerohan public market) and later converged at the Rizal Park, where Duterte suddenly showed up and was invited to the stage.

There could never be any peace if the people are hungry, he said.

Workers have been demanding for a 125-peso legislated across-the-board increase for workers in private companies and a 3,000-peso across-the-board increase for government employees. But the proposed bill required for these increases has been languishing in Congress in the past five years.

Duterte said he would take some of the citys budget for the military and police to set up a social amelioration fund for workers.

They’re starting to fake documents just to get a loan from banks because, with the kind of salary they’re getting, these are very hard times for them, he said, referring to several City Hall workers who were caught falsifying documents just to get loans. He said he did not press any charges against the erring employees because he understood their condition.

Instead, he said, the city is setting aside some 10 million pesos for the midyear bonuses of city government workers next year, in time for the enrollment period.

Duterte said the rising prices of oil, which also trigger increases in the prices of commodities, make it more urgent for Congress to pass the law. I don’t know what Congress is doing but they should pass that law, he said, adding that the only people threatened by the wage increase are only the owners of big corporations who are cashing in on the workers’ sufferings.

At the rally, workers were not only calling for decent wages, job security and the protection of their democratic rights but also for Arroyo to step down. They also demanded an end to labor-contract schemes of many companies, which has been depriving them of regular workers’ benefits and security of tenure. Leaders of transport group Piston-Transmission also demanded for the scrapping of the oil deregulation law which left oil prices to market forces.

Ariel Casilao, acting secretary general of Bayan in Southern Mindanao also cited the estimates made by independent think tank Ibon Foundation, which placed 8 of 10 families in the country are poor. The unfair economic policies of the Arroyo administration has been causing this poverty, he said.

In the face of rising prices of basic commodities, oil prices increases and the new taxes imposed by the present administration, workers are trying desperately to make both ends meet with their meager salaries, said Omar Bantayan, KMU secretary-general for Southern Mindanao.

Despite the governments repeated warnings of a destabilization plot, the Labor Day rally here ended peacefully. (Germelina Lacorte/davaotoday.com)

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