The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) today joined other labor organizations in the All Workers Unity (AWU) in calling for immediate aid for its ranks from the government and for job security.
UMA’s national office together with Anakpawis Partylist and UMA Isabela petitioned for a P100 emergency wage relief across-the-board increase to the statutory minimum wage at the NCR and Cagayan Valley Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Boards respectively on April 15, 2021.
While both petitions stated that raising the minimum wage of workers will relatively result in an increase in the purchasing capacity of workers which will have a domino effect in the overall productivity of related market forces, the one submitted by UMA – Isabela particularized the situation of sugarcane workers there.
In its petition for a wage increase, it stated that while the Philippine Statistics Authority data for year 2019 reported that average wage rates for all types of labor of sugarcane farm workers was P386.29 per day.
But the actual daily piece rate wages in Isabela in year 2020 reached only from P16-50 for weeding, P40 – P70 for planting, P150 for fertilizer application, P75 for patching, P63 for de-strussing, P94 for cleaning of underbrush and re-cutting and P250 for harvesting for a whole days work.
This is way below the minimum wage of agricultural workers which is pegged at P345 a day in Region II. Cutting and hauling of harvested sugarcane in Isabela is from February to August every year.
Other than that, 287 sugar workers were laid off by Ecofuel-GFII after Mayor Hilario Pagauitan who owns vast sugarcane lands in Sta. Maria, Isabela leased these for three years to said company in August, 2019. Ecofuel-GFII is now owned by Martin Lorenzo, who also owns the Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT) in Hacienda Luisita.
Last year’s government aid to agricultural workers was also very negligible, to say the least. When the government ordered a lockdown in the whole of Luzon and other areas, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) only provided COVID-19 ADJUSTMENT MEASURES PROGRAM (CAMP) aid to 210 establishments and 3,543 workers for the whole agriculture, forestry and fishing industry.
Meanwhile to the sugar workers and even small sugar planters, it only provided P49,267,000 to 49,267 beneficiaries.This is just 6.35% of said workers stated earlier. Sugar workers alone total 700,000 in number.
In Negros Occidental, only around 70% of the sugar workers in haciendas were able to benefit from the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) of the DWSD, while less were able to avail of these in Isabela because of so many exemptions.
UMA is also advocating for a P10,000 immediate date for all working people and P15,000 subsidy for farmers.
If these could not be met by the government, it would be better if President Duterte resigned from his post to pave the way for a more efficient national leader that could help resolve the crisis brought about by the pandemic.
At the same time, the peoples must ensure that the age old structural problems of Philippine society should be resolved so that the vast majority of them would earn decently from their hard earned labor and build a society more equitable to all. #