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Trade unions as price enumerators

Time was when the biggest affiliate of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), the Associated Labor Unions (ALU) actively participated in the quarterly price monitoring and assessments of all essential goods, commodities and services in the market.

The involvement of the union as price enumerators was a Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) initiative to help monitor prices of basic necessities and prime commodities in public and private markets, department stores, groceries, hardware and construction suppliers and pharmacies.

With industry unions from manufacturing and retail services, agricultural and industrial sectors, I think this is the primordial reason the inclusion of the union in the agency’s campaign for price monitoring.

It was instituted in the early years of the implementation of R.A. 57581, otherwise known as the “Price Act” of 1991. A separate undertaking was established with the respective local government units (LGUs) through the creation of the Local Price Coordinating Councils (LPCCs). 

Modesty aside, the ALU has the highest numbers of signed and approved social contracts with the employers, among others trade unions in the country based on records with the Bureau of Working Conditions (BWC) of the Department of Labor and Employment. 

The price enumerators were given formal training by DTI. They were given daily remuneration by the DTI equivalent to the prevailing minimum wage in the region. A checklist of consumer goods and products in the markets for monitoring were provided by the DTI. It will take five days of painstaking effort for the appointed enumerators to complete the survey. It will be collated and submit to the agency afterwards. 

Most often, taking advantage of the situation during periods of calamity, emergency and similar situations, prices of essential products and commodities are sometimes excessive and unreasonable thereby, creating price manipulation by some unscrupulous businessmen. 

Bringing the issue to the government’s attention. Workers are primary consumers and as such ample protection from profiteers, hoarders and cartels should be provided with respect to pricing of basic goods and commodities in the market.

Thus, organized labor in the country led by the ALU due to significant increase in prices of food and other basic consumer goods have called the Duterte administration to impose stricter price measures in public markets for protection of ordinary consumers and workers. 

In a fiery and categorical statement released to media, the ALU National Executive Vice President Gerard R. Seno has expressed outraged over the spiraling prices of basic and essential commodities.

The union’s top honcho urged not only the DTI but likewise the Department of Agriculture (DA) to enhance protection of ordinary consumers, particularly minimum wage earners in light of significant increases in prices of the basic and essential commodities.

The two government functionaries, serving as front-liners in this time of health crisis must also move beyond mere token inspections and other media-ops in groceries and supermarkets, Seno added.

Added to this, I think if the government is serious to implement the Price Act for protection of consumers, then, issuing of show cause orders as well as notices of violations to erring businessmen are not enough barometers. They have to be prosecuted and shall be issued a stern warning. 

During these times when both workers and employers are gradually recovering from the impact of the health crisis, my centavo-worth suggestion is that, it is imperative for the Duterte administration to reactivate the Local Price Coordination Councils (LPCC) with participation from the labor sector to closely monitor prices of basic and essential commodities in the market.