The "good news" that President Benigno Aquino III announced at his breakfast meeting with labor leaders on Labor Day Tuesday was not good enough for workers.
The package of benefits that Mr. Aquino unveiled included an P11.2-billion (S$330 million) educational assistance fund for members of the Social Security System and the Government Service Insurance System; a P1.1-billion (S$32.3 million) scholarship program for the youth; and the advance release in June of P2.7 billion (S$7.9 million) in salary increases for government employees.
"Another good news is that there will be a quarterly dialogue to discuss and address the demands of the workers," said Budget Secretary Florencio Abad who announced the package of benefits before thousands of workers gathered at Don Chino Roces (formerly Mendiola) Bridge near Malacañang.
The President rejected calls for a P125 (S$3.70) across-the-board increase for minimum wage earners, saying the economy could not afford it, that it would scare off foreign investors and would lead to layoffs.
Some 15,000 members of the newly formed Nagka1sa coalition of labor groups gave Abad a courteous applause while he left the stage along with presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda and presidential adviser on political affairs Ronald Llamas.
A group of Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) street sweepers were hardly impressed by Abad's pronouncement.
"Promises again. I hope they make good on their word this time," one of the street sweepers, who asked not to be named, said.
Lorna, 25, said MMDA street sweepers were paid P254.55 (S$7.50) daily as contractual workers and had not been given a chance to be regular employees.
"I have been working here for three years. We have to buy our own brooms and dustpans, and pay for our own uniforms," she said.