Creating jobs more urgent than pay hike


Some may call me anti-labor but I don’t believe the time is ripe for a legislated wage hike of P135 a day, not at this time when unemployment is worsening.

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) headed by former Sen. Ernesto Herrera, noted that the unemployment rate has increased from 7 percent in July 2010 to 7.5 percent as of January 2014.

Herrera, also a fellow columnist of the Manila Times, cited figures from the Philippine Statistics Office showing that as of January 2014, 10.07 million able-bodied Filipinos were either totally jobless or underemployed. A Social Weather Stations survey had an even bigger number of jobless Filipinos – 12.1 percent or an unemployment rate of 27.5 percent.

Now, how can the economy create the three-million jobs a year needed to bridge the unemployment gap if wages are increased by P135 a day? Such a wage increase will benefit only those who are already employed but not those who are looking for jobs. The pay for nurses, for instance, continues to be abysmal because of the intense competition for the few positions available. Thousand of nurses pass the board every year and most of them go either unemployed or underemployed.

Some firms that are in the red could be forced to close shop if they have to pay more for their employees, thus worsening the problem of unemployment. There was a newspaper in the late ‘80s that continued publishing despite low returns. The newspaper’s staffers knew this but rather than commiserate with the financial strain being endured by the publisher, they struck for higher wages. The publisher decided to sell the paper rather than give in to the petition for a wage hike. Consequently, the staffers lost their job although many of them got employed in other media outfits later.

Speaking of jobs in the media let me recount an experience I had with the late Betty Go Belmonte when I was still with the Philippine STAR. I told her I wanted to borrow money from the paper, payable thru salary deductions, to buy a motorcycle for my better mobility at a lower fuel expense. She vehemently opposed my request, saying a motorcycle is very dangerous. I tried to reassure her that I had had experience driving motorbikes in Nueva Ecija but to no avail. I didn’t get what I wanted but that same month, she gave me a pay increase of P7,000 a month “for my better mobility.” That amount is the biggest pay hike I had ever received in my entire professional life—and she gave it to me without my asking for any increase. Mind you, that was at a time when The Star wasn’t as profitable as it is today.

Dr. Dante Ang, the Chairman Emeritus of the Manila Times, and his son Klink, the Times CEO and executive editor, are of the same mold as the late Tita Betty. There was a time when I wanted to resign from The Manila Times to devote more time for my wife Lynn who was then suffering from a rare type of cancer called acinic cell carcinoma. The advice and assistance extended to me by Doctor Dante and Klink during that critical time enabled me to continue with my career at the Times when my wife’s health had greatly improved.

The Manila Times gave me a pay comparable to what I used to receive at The Star. I didn’t tell Dante how much I should get. I love my work and I would have accepted a lower pay but Dante gave me what he believed was worthy of my status and experience. I told Dante that I’ll never ask for a pay hike but he may give me one if he could afford it. Well, well, well, what do you know! Without my asking for it, he doubled the honorarium for my column. During my entire employment with the Manila Times, I never filed for overtime or holiday pay. That’s my simple way of helping the paper keep afloat, of showing my gratitude to the Dante and Klink whom I consider model employers.

When I retired early last year, I volunteered to do desk jobs without pay whenever the desk is short of hands. Klink smiled at my offer and replied: “Thank you, but you don’t have to do it. Just continue writing columns for us.”

That’s what I intend to do as long as I remain healthy.

No wise men in Congress?
There is a saying that “a word to the wise is sufficient.” What does this saying make of our politicians, especially our lawmakers? Most of them deliver hour-long speeches and keep on repeating what they had already said, or keep on asking questions that had already been asked and answered.


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