PH workers are racing to the bottom, not to Boracay

First published in

Days ahead of Labor Day, #Laboracay has been making a buzz in social media. To my dismay, it has nothing to do with the essence of the International Workers’ Day but has everything to describe middle class fantasies: a holiday spent in Boracay island, complete with the imagery of half-naked bodies dipped in crystal-clear waters. Netizens who were too excited for their Labor Day trip embarked on a #Laboracay barrage much earlier, bragging their gym routines or flaunting their swim wear. Good thing Boracay Hater compiled all their petty concerns into a hilarious post.

By bragging their #Laboracay escapade, they are also flaunting their skimpy ignorance of what Labor Day really is – which is about the massacre of protesting workers who asserted the eight-hour workday and other rights at work which most Boracay-goers are enjoying. But we cannot blame them, for their ignorance is only shaped by a socio-economic structure that is increasingly reversing the gains of workers’ movements and burrowing labour and unionism in oblivion.

We can however at least remind Boracay-goers a few things about the issues and struggle of Filipino workers, who with their poverty wages cannot actually afford even a promo Boracay trip.

From the previous regimes up to the current Aquino administration, Filipino workers are increasingly forced to race to the bottom as wage levels hardly catch up with rising prices of commodities and basic services. Current average daily basic pay of Filipino workers is only at P348.75, or just enough to buy two Grande Java Chip Frappucino. The average wage is way short of the conservative estimate of the family living wage (or the amount needed for a family to meet basic needs), which is at P1,068 as of last year.

infographic workers

Skewed wage system

The situation is made worse by a highly skewed regional wage setting based on the Wage Rationalization Act: the farther you go from Metro Manila, the lower the minimum wage is even if prices of goods and services are more or less the same. Such setting granted companies the flexibility to relocate areas with the cheapest labor, spurring an exodus of production firms from Metro Manila to Calabarzon, Central Luzon and Davao where labor costs are cheaper for the same kind of work. In a sense, this arrangement made extraction of higher profits and higher rate of exploitation possible.

Just in case Boracay-goers won’t dare ask the hotel staff and waiters, the current daily minimum wage in Aklan is P287 for companies with more than 10 workers (P6,888 a month) and P245 for companies with less than 10 workers (P5,880). I presume they are paid lower than these rates, as companies normally do not comply with the mandatory minimum wage. And jobs in the tourism sector are highly volatile, as employees are trimmed as off-peak season sets in.

Still in line with saving on labor costs, an ever increasing number of companies are using contractual work arrangements to extract higher profits and evade paying benefits and union formation of employees. Contractualization is most prevalent in construction (81.21 percent), hotels and food service activities (50.26 percent) and manufacturing (48.64 percent), and is being implemented under various modalities – from labor outsourcing to creation of labor cooperatives.

Jobless growth

In terms of employment, the number of jobless Filipinos has been hovering near the 3-million mark despite the slew of job fairs and emergency employment programs unloaded by the Aquino administration in the past four years. In January, unemployment rate hit a nine-month high at 7.5 percent despite the economy’s strong showing at 7.2 percent GDP growth last year. I already explained the enigma behind the jobless growth in a previous post, and I expect the Aquino administration to continue to overlook what is really wrong with its jobs paradigm especially now that it is so eager to press the Charter change (Cha-cha) button as soon as Congress resumes session on May 5.

Depressed wages, rising contractualization and severe joblessness remain unaddressed by President Aquino who seems to be contented with hyped job fairs and a bankrupt investment-driven job generation. His oblivion of the Filipino workers’ plight is certainly much worse than those who indulge in #Laboracay.

Today, workers will not be enjoying a luxurious time in Boracay. They will be the men and women busily serving the Laboracay-goers. In Manila and elsewhere, they will be in throngs marching on the streets, fighting for labor rights. In social media, their will register their common voice simultaneously with massive protests via #May1Fight. #

2 thoughts on “PH workers are racing to the bottom, not to Boracay

  1. I really think that the #laboracay goers totally deserve that vacation. Its the time of the year they get to enjoy hard earned disposable income. On the other hand wages are a totally separate problem and should not be associated with #laboracay. People have their own ways of spending their well deserved vacation. Be it on the streets to protest issues or spend a nice vacation and forget about the all the stress work brings forth. People.have.choices.

    • Hi rougecarey, i did not say anything in my article that laboracay should be banned. I just wanted to balance people’s idea of Labor Day, and possibly remind the island-goers some issues which they have overlooked.

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