THE package of non-wage benefits amounting to P40 billion unwrapped by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as present at this year’s Labor Day celebrations did little to please the nation’s labor force of 35 million, particularly wage earners and salaried workers, who are demanding the government for a long-overdue wage increase.

Arroyo announced this afternoon worker benefits in the form of:

  • at least P20 billion for standardizing salaries of government employees;
  • P12 billion for condoning loan surcharges and penalties acquired by members of the Social Security System (SSS) and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS);
  • P3.2 billion in housing loans with a higher ceiling and lower interest rates available to Pag-Ibig members;
  • P500-million worth of training scholarships for future workers in call centers and business process outsourcing;
  • P1.4 billion in loan funds for groups that want to purchase buses that run on cheaper fuel;
  • P1 billion for the income tax exemption of minimum wage earners; and
  • a “social insurance” package for workers, which includes P40 million for PhilHealth coverage of members of the informal sector; P100 million for the rehabilitation of the Philippine General Hospital; P44 million for the health rehabilitation of overseas Filipino workers; P40 million for the GSIS hospitalization support program; and P60 million for GSIS scholarships.

Even the moderate Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) is only half-amused. While appreciating the non-wage benefits, it said it preferred a wage increase, pegging the amount at P75 as a concession to Arroyo’s appeal for a “middle ground” that she urged employers and workers to strive for.

But militant labor and party-list groups, which rallied today to also demand Arroyo’s ouster and oppose her charter change initiatives, are not as pleased.

“As usual, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has been ordered to wrap a package of doleouts that Arroyo presented as a gift to workers, in lieu of certifying the long pending P125-wage hike endorsed by the House labor committee,” claimed Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo.

The party-list representative said Arroyo’s Labor Day package does not reduce the fast widening gap between wages and the cost of living for most people.

At present, the cost of living is computed to be P668 for a family of six. The minimum wage is pegged at P325 — P275 in basic pay and P50 for the cost of living allowance (COLA).

But even the proposed P125-increase is no longer enough as it corresponded to just half of what was needed to close the gap between wages and cost of living when it was first filed in Congress in 2001. “So much less has it become today with the inflationary impact on the cost of living,” said Ocampo.

More than half of family income goes to food consumption, eroded further by unabated price increases in basic commodities. After food expenses, workers’ families also have to spend for utilities like electricity, water, and house rentals.

To Wilson Fortaleza, president of Sanlakas and vice president of the Freedom from Debt Coalition, the non-wage benefits unveiled on May 1 every year have become an option of the administration to maintain its cheap labor policy.

While acknowledging that workers also need non-wage benefits like tax exemptions, health and insurance benefits, Fortaleza said these however do not pose any significant impact on the lives of workers.

“The problem is that these do not respond to workers’ immediate needs to cope with the rising cost of living since prices are deregulated while wages are highly regulated,” he said.

The last legislated wage increase, recalled Fortaleza, was in 1989 which added P25 to the minimum wage.

Both Akbayan Rep. Etta Rosales and Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran assailed Arroyo’s Labor Day announcement as mere “fringe benefits.”

“P800 million for other benefits? P100 million for PGH rehabilitation? P1.4 billion for bus loans? How ridiculous!” she said. “And the P20 billion for salary standardization, where will she get that?”

Though she emphasized that a wage hike is imperative, Rosales noted that other workers’ welfare issues have not been touched like insecurity of tenure, stable schemes for wage hike which she said have already pending bills at the House committee level but which Arroyo has not certified as urgent measures.

“We have to be serious about workers’ demands and not just talk about it because it’s Labor Day,” the party-list legislator said.

The detained Beltran, a former labor leader, called on Malacañang to push for the approval of a P3,000-wage hike for government workers and P125-increase in daily salaries of minimum wage earners.

“What the workers really need is the increase in their monthly and daily pay,” he claimed.

For her part, economist Maitet Diokno-Pascual of the Institute for Popular Democracy said non-wage benefits comprising the packaged offering of Arroyo to labor is an indication that there really are no jobs. “No matter what we say about her, she is at least consistent.”

19 Responses to Workers insist on pay hike, not happy with Arroyo’s P40-billion package of non-wage benefits


Cecile Impens

May 2nd, 2006 at 1:58 am

Another “ghost” program in the making! Instead of direct, viable and immediate actions as response to workers’ demands of wage-increase, Arroyo just content and proud enough to propose the P40 billion non-wage benefit package to calm the public outcry. The remaking of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. With the inflation so high, the only response to compensate the dwindling family budget is the salary increase, but apparently, Arroyo has NO ANSWER to that!



May 2nd, 2006 at 7:36 am

Is she really an economist? All you need is common sense to know that what the workers need is wage increase, remember the line “a happy worker, works harder” from one of those old films about the Exodus?

The ‘gift’ from GMA is something, but then again, it misses the entire point.
How could a worker with a six-month contract on or below minimum pay could afford a housing loan?

How could he start having savings from the income tax exemption while RVAT sucks away at his meager wage?

Tsk tsk tsk….and to think she went to Harvard to study.


Promdi » Arroyo’s ulog-ulog

May 2nd, 2006 at 10:33 am

[…] Under ordinary circumstances, these benefits are excellent gifts for workers. But read the supposed package closely and you will realize that all of these will be shouldered by government, which will in turn use taxpayers money to finance the package. (Even the moderate group TUCP, according to the PCIJ, is not entirely happy with the package.) […]



May 2nd, 2006 at 11:09 am

02 May 2006

Gloria gave state workers salary standardization??? FYI, the govt employees salary standardization is in efect for how many years already, the problem is, there were no salary standardizatio/increases for state workers for the past 4 to 5 years. (Is she joking, claiming again what is already sitpulated). Condone the GSIS/SSS laon charges & surcharges – Members of the GSIS and SSS are having difficulty getting what is theirs, and gloria wants to condone??? the remedy is to remove garcia and study the allowances of the members of the board of trustee> Do you know how much a single trustee receives monthly??? its 150,000+++ a month, and do you know haw many trustees are there??? more than ten and you multiply that (e.g 150,000 x10 x12) that’s how they are receiving their allowances. Get rid (reduced it)of these trustees and give it back to the members, and all will be happy, GSIS health support, ETC… removed garcia and study the perks of these trustees and give it back to the members, GSIS is losing money becayuse of garcia and the trustees9wala namang gingagawa yang mga iyan e). How can a member loan from PAG-IBIG, if their salary will not meet its requirements, whether lowering the intertest rates, if their monthly salary does not meets its minimum requirements, its useless, call centers training, the country’s english proficiency is falling, we need to make our teachers teach teir students the right english, point is, we have to improve the educational quality of the teachers and students, from there we can move forward, tax exemption from the minimum earners??? whare is the government going to get the sum of all taxes paid by our minimum wage earners, except to impose new taxes, (to overcome the taxes lost). Before gloria announced the rehabilitation of the PGH, it has been rehabilitated weeks ago, along witht eh Ospital ng Maynila, who is she trying to fool????, Housing, even the new AFP housing cannot be afforded by the lowly ranking members of the AFP, is that what they called affordable housing, ano na ang kaknin ng mga sundalo???


Alecks Pabico

May 2nd, 2006 at 4:35 pm


As far as I know, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo never went to Harvard. She is however an alumna of Georgetown University, having studied there from 1964 to 1966. She finished her economics degree from the Assumption College, where she graduated magna cum laude in 1968. She obtained her masters in economics from Ateneo in 1978, and her doctorate, also in economics, from the U.P. School of Economics in 1985.



May 2nd, 2006 at 5:34 pm

Wages are really low in this country.Who is not for a wage increase.Increasing wages will also mean adding to the value of goods & services.It will also mean higher inflasion.Those same consmers who get the increase are the same people who will be paying more for the goods too.
In a way you don’t have to be an economist not to understand the cause & effect of things.
Doing business in the Philippines has high risk other then the high cost of doing business.
It’s a given that labor will only want a wage increase always.
Perhaps, what is more long term is that we may have more political peace so the investors take us more seriously & invest in our country to be able to generate more jobs.
We must factor-in also that we leave in a world economy w/ strong compitition from China in particular.
A wage increase can always happen but companies will also down size.
In a way goverment is doing it’s role in terms of offereing more benifits to workers in proportion to what the economy can handel.
I think the private sector should also do their bit in carrying the burden.



May 2nd, 2006 at 5:48 pm

why hello there, joselu… i never got to read your answers last time and now i’m asking you a new question:

you said: “In a way goverment is doing it’s role in terms of offereing more benifits to workers in proportion to what the economy can handel.”

defend that assertion, would you please?



May 2nd, 2006 at 6:07 pm

“In a way goverment is doing it’s role in terms of offereing more benifits to workers in proportion to what the economy can handel.”

what she meant maybe is the 12%(?) EVAT. :). and the working class should do more of carrying the burden by not asking for a a pay hike but endure the burden of price increases of our basic commodities.

or if you really want to help the country, lumayas ka na ng pilipinas. siguradong makakatulong ka sa ekonomiya at mapapaliit pa ang budget deficit ng bansa. afterall, these are the two great achievements of gloria. all praise pa ang iba diyan.



May 2nd, 2006 at 6:24 pm

your right jr. lad.. pero di parin ako sasali sa rally.. phew kung kasama ang mga activista na yan.. akala mo hindi mga corrupt eh harapan naman na humihingi na kickback kahit bigyan mo pa ng discount kasi para din sa bayan.. … pweh talaga.. free na service ko.. humihinga pa ng kickback.. almost times 4 sa original price. Mga wlanghiya talaga.. ex.. bayan muna



May 2nd, 2006 at 7:03 pm

It used to be that many, many years ago Labor Day was celebrated with a grand parade at the Luneta. It was a fitting day to honor the workers. Waving of red flags was unheard of. Now you see so many red flags in every labor protest and public demonstrations. Red is the symbol of communist left. Ever since the left came to dominate labor groups, May 1 has become the day of national protests. Lost in the political maelstrom is the tribute that ordinary workers deserve to receive. What a pity.



May 2nd, 2006 at 7:33 pm

Jester, I think one of goverments role is to provide benifits to workers. Benefits w/c come from tax collected.How about you, what is your assertion.I already explained earlier why it seems to me a wage increase at this point is dificult to happen.I understand labor wants an across the board while the palace wants a regional thing.I seems to me dealing w/ it on a regional manner will give more results.However little it may be it will always be something.
Jr._lad, I think workers do not really have to carry the burden. The RVAT is a consumption tax. It’s proportional to the life style that one leaves.I think the life style of the working class is worlds apart from those who have to pay 12% tax.I think we all carry the burden proportionaly.Life is not easy for so many people.Paying less tax will not make the problem go away anyway.If we are more burdened yet, it is also because of world events. Like the Iran situation that is jacking up oil prices that registers on many commodities.



May 2nd, 2006 at 8:27 pm


“The last legislated wage increase, recalled Fortaleza, was in 1989 which added P25 to the minimum wage.”

considering the devaluation of the peso against the dollar, the rising inflation rate, and other factors that have contributed to the degradation of the buying power of the peso, regional wage boards cannot alleviate the problem of low wages, considering that it is and has been a national issue for 17 years now.

the workers’ benefits from collected taxes you speak of is analogous to taking a guy’s ten peso bill and then returning it back to him… assuming, of course, that in processing the return there are no deductions based on “processing fees,” “keeping fees,” and the like, so to speak.

the administration did not proclaim that their role was to provide benefits to workers, but something more — GMA proclaimed that she’d create several million jobs.

of course, the result was another “I am sorry.”

I don’t subscribe to the “However little it may be it will always be something,” the “kesa wala” point of view. It encourages the existence of overworked and underpaid employees and underemployment — and one of the overarching results of the encouragement of this attitude is the Philippine diaspora, where OFWs would rather work elsewhere since the pay here is “kesa wala.”



May 2nd, 2006 at 8:29 pm


“Lost in the political maelstrom is the tribute that ordinary workers deserve to receive. What a pity.”

i agree. however, there’d be no protests of that nature if there were no reasons to protest.

i do want to see the situation improve such that labor day does become a day of tribute to the pinoy worker.



May 2nd, 2006 at 10:15 pm

Agree, Jester, but I would like to see that one day in May the left would leave the workers alone and let them relish the honor and tribute that they deserve out of the 365 days that they dominate them. Leave it to the left to protest everything that does not conform with their way of thinking.



May 2nd, 2006 at 10:49 pm

ha haaayy, so its now the left that is the problem?

this is not to ridicule what you feel, toro. i feel our workers have suffered enough and sees no concrete solutions to their woes in the future, near and beyond.

let us not rub salt to an already open wound and squirt those left-scare litanies. it is not only antiquated and only would result to an open-ended debate but more importantly, divisive.

they know better, than we do, as to the solutions of the problem confronting them. let us raise our glasses to their success…


tongue in, anew

May 3rd, 2006 at 6:22 am

Toro, a little bit of history tells us why flags on Labor day are red and why the left will always be a part of the celebrations.

The international working class holiday, Mayday, originated in pagan Europe. It was a festive holy day celebrating the first spring planting. The ancient Celts and Saxons celebrated May 1st as Beltane or the day of fire. Bel was the Celtic god of the sun. Mayday was eventually outlawed by the Catholic Church, which had to absorb most pagan rites to win over converts from the “Old Religion”, but Mayday was still celebrated by peasants until the late 1700’s. As part of the celebration, people would make jokes and poke fun of local authorities and this probably led to modern-day protests.

Modern Mayday celebrations evolved from 1886. On May 1, Americans and Canadians held national strikes to limit the working day to eight hours. In Chicago, confrontation between strikers and non-strikers in a factory ensued and the strikers were attacked by police and six workers were killed. Workers gathered the next day at Haymarket Square in Illinois to protest the police brutality the day before. A bomb killed eight policemen, leading to the arrest of eight union leaders. Four were executed after a controversial trial. In Paris, 1889, the four were proclaimed as the Haymarket Martyrs by the Marxist International Working Men’s Association (known also as the Second International) and May 1 was declared as the international working class day. The red flag was adopted as the symbol of the blood of working class martyrs.

All over the world, May 1 is celebrated by workers, peasants and fisherfolk, women, and the youth with marches, protests, strikes, art shows spearheaded mostly by, who else, the leftists, of course.



May 3rd, 2006 at 7:36 am

Thanks Tongue, anew, it’s always good to know how it all began. What I miss is the Luneta celebration where my grandpa used to bring me to when I was a kid to watch the grand parade.



May 3rd, 2006 at 1:41 pm

Jester, There is no argueing that there is a need for a pay hike.Question is can the economy handel it? Since the last pay increase, has the economy really grown enough?
Yes I know, I deal w/ people everyday.In reality anyone can only do so much & make it in the form of benefits.
Yes, 17 years has passed but how has the economy grown.perhaps everybody was always so busy playing politics that major issues regarding the economy have never been addressed.
Like I said, perhaps wages can be raised too.Let’s face it. That too will come w/ a price. Companies will down-size, like it or not.
Because the brutal reality about economics is that things boil down to numbers & figures.
Yes, jobs can be created. It can be created if we are brave enough to put our acts together & concentrate on the matters that will do the Nation a long term good.
If we learn to separate issues from personalities.
The issue of the economic provision in charter change is part of a solution.
Unfortunately & sadly, the only way we can be in a postion of strenght is if & when we modernize & be innovative in our ways.
Sadly, we are not always in a position to say we don’t buy this or that.We should be more concerned of putting our act together. Stop the politics & get down to serious work.
Jester, we have to face it. The world has changed.Everyday, we you leave your house you step-into a bigger world.Turn on your computer & it’s a window to the world. This modern world has no bounderies.
I think the reality of the OFW’s should not be seen as just people having to leave their countries & their families in search for better jobs.
I think we must be proud of those Pinoys who can be competetive & in-demand for their skills.


INSIDE PCIJ » Beltran back in House; assails gov’t on illegal arrest and detention

June 4th, 2007 at 8:37 pm

[…] Beltran also reiterated the need for the P3,000-across-the-board salary increase for government employees, stressing that the government, up to now, has not made good on its promise to increase workers’ pay. (See related post.) […]

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