More burdens on the working class

DIRECT FROM THE LABOR FRONT - Atty Josephus B Jimenez - The Freeman

The New Year does not look good for the workers. It pains us to note that bad news have been reported, one after another, that shall make life more difficult for the working class. First to hit the poor is the outrageous increases in the prices of gasoline and crude oil. This could only mean that bus and jeepney fares will soon be increased. The prices of rice, sugar, meat, fish and vegetables and other prime commodities will most probably follow. This is in addition to the unabated hike in the cost of electricity, water and other facilities. If we allow an escalation in the cost of living without increasing the workers' wages and income, then we are pushing the most vulnerable sector in Philippine society to the brink of total devastation.

Added to these burdens are unilateral increases in SSS, Pag-Ibig and PhilHealth contributions, not to mention the escalation and unforgiving impositions and collection of all forms of taxes, such as real estate tax, sales taxes, value added taxes. Every time a worker buys something, he pays taxes to the government. The SSS claims that it has to raise the amount of contribution because the trust fund reserved for pensions of retirees are being depleted over the years. Thus, today's workers must bear the burdens of both the SSS' past incompetence and the future that SSS administrators have failed to properly plan and project. And yet, the SSS commissioners, executives and managers have rewarded themselves with hefty bonuses. In all these, the SSS members were not even consulted.

The cost of medical care has been raised by PhilHealth also without consultation, much less consent of the members. If employees in both the public and the private sectors are only given the freedom to choose whether they want membership or not, we are almost absolutely positive that many if not a majority will opt to procure their own medical insurance and hospitalization plan. The PhilHealth executives and managers are being paid handsome salaries and outrageous perks and benefits while the members are being compelled to pay contributions every month. The government is mandated by law to afford full protection to labor. But medical care, as a form of safety net is becoming very onerous on the part of the working class.

The Pag-Ibig Fund is anti-labor, anti-poor and is never faithful to its mandate as provided by law. I know of many cases where this fund has condoned many big-time borrowers and has written off many millions, if not billions of bad debts and non-performing loans and investments. These loans and debts were incurred by influential people many of whom are protected by powerful politicians. However, Pag-Ibig is, like the SSS, totally unforgiving when it comes to ordinary wage-earners who are unable to amortize their real estate loans because of loss of jobs or disasters and calamities. If this agency is really serving the poor, why is it very accommodating to the rich and powerful and very strict and uncompromising to the working class?

I know one lady janitress whose family is being threatened with ejectment because she is unable to pay the monthly amortization of her loan. Her husband who was an OFW has procured a P100,000 loan in the mid-eighties. He used the money in constructing a dwelling for his wife and children. For many years, he faithfully paid the monthly payments. His total payments amounted to much more than the total amount of loan. On the day that he paid the amortization, he suffered a heart attack and died. From then on, his widow, and children were unable to pay. The widow came to me asking for help. She received a letter of demand informing her that the loan has ballooned to half a million pesos. We wrote Pab-Ibig, copy furnished to the president and the vice president who is the administration's housing czar. But all our pleas fell on deaf ears.

All these are leading me to conclude that the greatest calamity that the working class will have to face this year won't emanate from nature nor from war or pestilence, but from the government's lack of genuine concern for the working class. The economy, they'd say has been in boom; but the poor, I dare say, will face too much gloom and doom. We cannot solve poverty by giving cash to the unemployed and promote mendicancy. We cannot solve unemployment by holding job fairs every week. We cannot help the people if we add more burdens on their backs, while pegging wages below the levels of living wage. The poor is without safety nets, while the politicians and scam artists proclaim false prosperity to the media while stealing millions from the people. I'm afraid that the year of the horse will lead us to more pain and suffering.

vuukle comment











  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with