Philippines: Union Leaders Lobby for Daily Minimum Wage Hike of $3

Philippines: Union Leaders Lobby for Daily Minimum Wage Hike of $3

Philippine trade union leaders are calling for an across-the-board daily minimum wage increase in the private sector to alleviate the economic burden workers currently face. 

House Bill No. 7871 calls for a wage hike of 150 PHP (approximately 3 US dollars). Amid high inflation, poor job quality and a lack of new and decent jobs, supporters argue that immediately passing and enacting the wage increase is critical to support workers’ economic recovery. 

During a press conference in Quezon City on Thursday, Benjamin Alvero, chief policy officer of the Center of United and Progressive Workers (SENTRO) said, “This wage hike is not just a matter of economic development but also of social justice. The wage hike that we currently have at the regional level is just to catch up with inflation, and that is not enough.” 

“There is an urgency to pass this legislated wage hike as the first step in the right direction towards addressing the disparity between the family living wage standard and current minimum wage rates,” Philippine Labor representatives said in a joint statement.

Last month, the Philippine Senate approved a minimum wage increase–the first Congress-legislated wage hike since 1989—of 100 PHP (roughly 2 US dollars).

Unions in Palestine Campaign to Enforce New Minimum Wage Law

Unions in Palestine Campaign to Enforce New Minimum Wage Law

After successfully pushing for a higher minimum wage in Palestine, unions now are campaigning to ensure the new law is enforced—and employers pay workers what they are owed.

A key part of the process is first determining the prevalence of underpayment. Through Solidarity Center support, the Youth and Campaign Committees of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) and the Palestine Journalists Syndicate conducted a survey of workers in low-wage jobs such as those in kindergartens, private schools, agriculture, textiles and media.

The survey found more than 62 percent of workers do not receive the minimum wage, a contrast to government assertions that 86 percent of workers are paid the new wage.

Sameer Abu Libdeh, 31, an education service worker from Qalqilya City, is paid $485 per month, and says the minimum wage law “unfortunately it is not enforced.

“Our demand is to get paid the minimum wage, which is 1,880 shekels ($520). We just want one official to show up and do justice to the poor [people] who get paid 1,700 shekels ($470). 1,700 is not enough. I talk like this due to the injustice I see among my colleagues.”

Hard-Fought Victory to Raise Minimum Wage

PGFTU spearheaded a successful campaign for a minimum wage boost, effective in January 2022, that for the first time in years enables workers to earn above poverty-level wages.

The victory to raise the minimum wage was hard fought, says Mohammad Badri, a telecom worker, union activist and executive member of the PGFTU, the umbrella federation for unions across the West Bank and Gaza.

 “The employers are very greedy. They did not commit to this resolution and they don’t want to give higher salaries to their workers,” says Badri, who described PGFTU’s successful campaign last year on The Solidarity Center Podcast.

Going forward, the union will discuss the survey results with civil society organizations and build alliances around the minimum wage campaign to increase pressure on government and employers to enforce the minimum wage.

With Solidarity Center support, the PGFTU also is connecting with journalists to put a human face on the struggles of low-wage workers. The union signed a strategic partnership agreement with the Journalists Syndicate to increase media coverage of PGFTU’s campaigns, including the minimum wage.

“So far, most media coverage is static. I mean it often focuses on numbers, statistics, ratios,” says Ayham Abu Ghosh, a journalist in Ramallah City at the Economic Journalist Network. “It is the time now to go beyond numbers, to humanize minimum wage issues by focusing and telling the personal stories of those underpaid workers.”

Podcast: Minimum Wage Boost in Palestine Big First Step for Workers

Podcast: Minimum Wage Boost in Palestine Big First Step for Workers

Workers worldwide are demanding a boost in the minimum wage—a fair’s day pay for a fair day’s work.

In Palestine, the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) spearheaded a successful campaign for a minimum wage boost, effective in January, that for the first time in years enables workers to earn above poverty-level wages. The PGFTU is the umbrella federation for unions across the West Bank and Gaza.

“We connected this achievement with activating labor courts to look through workers’ cases that are delayed at the courts. And there are bottlenecks at courts that may reach 10 years. So, we wanted this to be accelerated, and to give the workers their rights,” says Mohammad Badri.

Badri, who works in the West Bank at the Palestinian cellular firm, Jawwal, where he heads up the union at the company, describes the campaign on the latest episode of The Solidarity Center Podcast. (Arabic)

Solidarity Center Executive and Podcast host Director Shawna Bader-Blau says, “Unions in Palestine have an especially high hurdle to ensure workers are paid a decent wage because getting a minimum wage agreement with the Palestinian Authority is only the first step.

“Mohammad describes a tedious, time-consuming process that involves connecting with individual employers, many of whom are hostile, to ensure workers are paid the new wage.

“The employers are very greedy. They did not commit to this resolution and they don’t want to give higher salaries for their workers,” says Badri, who recently was elected to PGFTU’s executive committee and general secretariat.

“We will keep struggling and working at the federation, and we will not give up labor rights. We will protect the rights of our workers.”

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Haitian Unions Demand Minimum Wage Increase

Haitian Unions Demand Minimum Wage Increase

Haiti remains in the midst of multiple crises as the country grapples with the question of who will lead the nation in the aftermath of the assassination of President Jovenel Moise. Most recently, the dramatic rise in the cost of living has led workers to demand an increase in the minimum wage.

On January 17, a coalition of nine trade unions sent an open letter to the prime minister seeking a wage increase from 500 gourdes ($4.82) per day to 1,500 gourdes ($14.62). In the letter, they decried the current inflation rate of 22.8 percent and the difficulty of living on subsistence wages, and demanded a response by January 31, 2022.

The letter notes that three years have passed since the last adjustment to the minimum wage. Burdened with rising prices of basic necessities and services such as transportation, health care and education, workers need three to four times their current wages to survive. Article 137 of the Haitian Labor Code mandates that if the inflation rate exceeds 10 percent, the wage is to be adjusted.

The letter was signed by: SOTA-BO-Batay Ouvriye (textile union), Association of Textile Workers Unions for Re-importation-GOSTTRA (textile union); ROHAM, a union affiliated with Centrale Nationale des Ouvriers Haitians (CNOHA); SYNTRACO (textile union at Caracol industrial park); SOVASHG (textile union at S&H factory); SOKOWA (textile union at CODEVI industrial park); SOFEZO (textile union at Ouanaminthe); SROD’H, affiliated with CNOHA; and AASP (association of security professionals).

Trade unionists amplified the letter with social media messages saying, “Since 2019, the same salary. In the meantime, the price of transportation and food increased.”

On January 18, workers at SONAPI industrial park in Port-au-Prince—home to many of Haiti’s garment factories—held a spontaneous demonstration to call for a minimum wage increase. A member of GOSTTRA recorded a video of the protest.

The protest occurred as Prime Minister Henry was appearing at SONAPI for the installation of Dithny Joan Raton as the new labor ombudsperson for the garment industry. Since then, demonstrations have been widespread throughout industrial parks in the country.

Haiti: Workers Still Struggle 10 Years After Earthquake

Haiti: Workers Still Struggle 10 Years After Earthquake

Ten years after a magnitude 7 earthquake destroyed a large swath of Haiti, killing more than 300,000 people and injuring another 1.5 million, workers and their families have not benefited from the billions in international aid that poured into country after the disaster. Nor has the government’s response—expanding low-wage, garment-sector jobs—alleviated poverty. Instead, they struggle to support their families with wages too low to live on even as escalating prices for fuel and other necessities compound the difficulties in their daily effort to survive.

“Workers live day by day,” says Reginald Lafontant, secretary general of the Groupement Syndicat des Travailleurs Textil pour la Reimportacion d’assemblage (GOSTTRA), a garment worker union and Solidarity Center partner.

In response to ongoing mass protests last fall against fuel and food shortages and government corruption, President Jovenel Moïse increased the minimum wage for garment workers and others in the export manufacturing sector from 420 gourdes a day to 500 gourdes ($5.09) a day. The miniscule increase left workers’ wages at less than 2018 levels because of inflation, and the move infuriated workers, who told Solidarity Center staff that the new wage is not enough to pay for food, transportation, housing, children’s school fees  and medical care.

Workers Need $18.30 a Day to Support Themselves

More than 60 percent of Haitians survive on less $2 a day, and more than 2.5 million people fall below the extreme poverty line of $1.23 per day. The Solidarity Center report, “The High Cost of Low Wages in Haiti,” which tracked living expenses for garment workers from September 2018 through March 2019, recommends the government increase the minimum wage to an estimated $18.30 per day and allow workers to select their own representatives to the country’s tripartite minimum wage committee.

The cost of living in Haiti has increased by 74 percent since the Solidarity Center’s first wage assessment in 2014. Based on the current minimum wage, workers must spend more than half (55 percent) of their take-home pay on work-related transportation and a modest lunch, leaving little else to cover other necessities. Some workers say they can only afford to eat once per day.

The country’s inability to provide basic goods and services affects workers’ job security as well. With no propane available for cooking in the city, businesses last fall put their staff on unpaid leave. Hotels are closing and major airlines have cancelled flights to the country because of the economic and political turmoil, increasing unemployment and choking off income from much-needed tourist dollars. Haitians are outraged that the island has received millions of dollars in aid since the 2010 earthquake, but public services and infrastructure are nearly nonfunctional.

Haiti’s economy, which never recovered after the earthquake and the subsequent cholera outbreak that claimed some 10,000 lives, has worsened over the past three years. The Haiti Advocacy Working Group, which includes the Solidarity Center, is calling for policies that focus on an equitable and livable future and “promote the creation of decent employment that enables Haitian workers to adequately care for themselves and their families.”

Unions are in the forefront of calling for action to address the crisis. More than 40 labor organizations joined a call last fall for vast nationwide legal reforms, including free and fair elections and the resignation of Moïse. More recently, three Solidarity Center partner unions in the garment industry—GOSTTRA, Batay Ouvriye and Centrale Nationale des Ouvriers Haitiens (CNOHA)—rallied to call for better working conditions, the proper management of pension and social security funds, a living wage and government accountability for corruption.

The government failed to hold elections in October, and one-third of the Senate, the entire Chamber of Deputies and all local offices are set to expire in January 2020, setting the stage for a potential constitutional crisis and another round of widespread protests.

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