The Cutting Edge launching coincides with Labor Day
I wanted to launch THE CUTTING EDGE ahead of time to get things started, but decided to do it today (Labor Day) since my website is all about helping Filipino workers improve their professional and educational opportunities.
The Filipino worker struggles to make ends meet on a meager Php 275 minimum wage. I wonder how we survive on such small earnings when the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) estimates that for a family of six to live decently, the family's income should be Php 690 a day. Workers' unions have been fighting for a Php 125 wage increase across the country since 1999, but their pleas have fallen on deaf ears or worse, on an apathetic government.
I was a victim of the same unfair labor system in the Philippines a few months ago. Coming back to the country after a year and a half of working in Beijing, I applied to a media outfit in Ortigas. The editor-in-chief (or managing editor, I forgot really) of some of its publications was so eager to take me in because according to her, I had the potential to do very well in the industry. To make a long story short, I was about to work for the company as one of the editors for the "elite" fashion magazine they were going to launch.
Coming off as a senior English editor and columnist in Beijing and as a writer and editor (of more serious stuff than fashion) in Manila for more than 3 years, I felt that I was not being taken seriously because what I wanted was to write for their news and current affairs. But I took it as a challenge even though I've never tried my hand in writing for fashion because I wanted to prove that I was a versatile writer.
Since the fashion mag didn't have any system yet - no theme, no sections...nothing, I was asked to produce everything necessary to make one whole magazine from scratch. Needless to say, I impressed them when I reported with a very comprehensive fashion mag dummy because, they said, it was definitely appropriate for the upper class crowd.
Then it was time to talk about my compensation package. I had informed them that my last salary in Beijing was Php 50,000 net, but that I wasn't expecting to receive as much in the Philippines; I only wanted a just salary commensurate to my qualifications and parallel to the standard of living in the country. They said they understood and would offer me something. After further talks and days of going back and forth to their office, I was offered a gross pay of Php 10,000 a month or no more than Php 416.50 a day.
The most infuriating thing was, I had to take up office in Makati City (I live in Marikina City) and spend 8 hours a day working my butt off. Obviously, I was expected to go on field work to write articles for the mag. I have two kids and bills to take care of - I wonder how 416.50 pesos a day would suffice. I wonder how the company can be so insensitive to the needs of employees to think that it is owned by giant real estate corporation.
I feel for those who get less from inconsiderate employers. President Arroyo claims that there are enough jobs for Filipinos in the country, but the people are choosy. From where I stand, I don't think it's a matter of Filipinos being choosy. When a worker is paid less than what is needed for a decent living, the only choice is to get out and endure hard work in other countries where the pay is deemed better.
It's so sad that the president is grateful to call centers in the country because they offer a starting pay of almost Php 23,000 a month which is about US$ 446; an amount unacceptable to an ordinary American worker.
It is not something Filipinos should be happy about, but I guess, something we can't escape for now.