In a press conference of the Church People-Workers’ Solidarity held yesterday Sept. 13, at the Mariner’s Court in Cebu, President of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) and members of Catholic heirarchy agreed that the workers need higher wages to cope with the increasing cost of living.
Among the panelists were bishops from the Catholic Church namely incoming CBCP President Archbishop Jose Palma, outgoing CBCP President Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, and Auxiliary Bishop Gerardo Alminaza as well as Protestant Bishop and NCCP President Nathanael Lazaro. Convenors of CWS from the labor side were also present namely Daisy Arago of Center for Trade Union and Human Rights and CWS Spokesperson Gary Martinez.
Bishop Nathanael Lazaro of the NCCP, a group of 10 Protestant Churches in the country said that workers are due to workers as the current wage levels in different regions are insufficient to provide for the needs of a family of three, much more a family of five.
In Manila, minimum wage is only P426 compared to the P988 cost of living. In Cebu, minimum wage is will be P305 starting September 22 from P285 after the regional wage board approved of a P20 wage increase for Central Visayas.
When asked to react on this wage hike in Cebu, outgoing CBCP President Archbishop Lagdameo noted that while giving an increase is a good start, the increase should not “end there.” He explained that workers’ needs are changing and increasing everyday so giving P20 wage hikes should not be the end of the story.
President of Veco Employees Union and convenor of CWS, Casmero Mahilum, on the other hand, said that the P20-increase is an insult to the workers especially because wage hikes are implemented only once a year as prescribed by law and as approved by the regional wage board. “While our wage can only increase once a year, prices of commodities are continuously increasing. A P20-increase for one year is really not enough,” Mahilum said.
More workers issues
CWS Convenor and Auxiliary Bishop Alminza enumerated a number of workers issues that should be addressed. Other than the issue of wage, the list of workers’ concerns are contractualization and security of tenure. He said that the conference workshops which will be held today among the participants of the National Conference will aid in drafting an action plan that will be submitted to the CBCP and to dioceses.
“Listening to one another”
Incoming CBCP President Archbishop Palma in his keynote address to the delegates of the CWS hours before the press conference urged the delegates to listen to one another as the “Church considers it its task to call attention to the dignity and rights of those who work.” In the panel, he said that “with the goodness of the heart,” he believes that people can sit down to talk about their issues and that a dialogue between businesses and workers can result to something good.
In relation to the Church’s role in bridging the workers, government and businesses, Bishop Lazaro pointed out that the Church need to do this in a “creative manner” so that the government, businesses and workers can talk to one another. He added that the involvement of the Church in these social issues is only proper and imperative as the Church “places a high regard for achieving social justice.”
Reference: Roxanne Omega Doron, Media Liaison, CWS, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, 09217862022