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Carreer Junction by Michele Majul-Ibarra

Wages from 1968 to the 90s

by Levy Abad

I remember a quotation back in my university days, “The masses are the real heroes while we ourselves are often childish and ignorant.” Guided by this idea, I integrated with the Filipino seniors at the Garden City Food Court in Winnipeg, Manitoba, to research their first-ever pay cheques in the 70s and 80s. I can research the information online or in the library and peruse the statistics through the years to produce a scholarly piece, but doing so would not give a sense of the lived experience of the community. Hence, I hang out with my folks to listen, learn, and ask them about life in the 70s and 80s. In the course of our conversation, they shared the following information about the hourly wage with the companies they worked for:

Group picture Garden CityWages per hour from 1968

• 1970 - Dantex Int. -$1.25
• 1973 - Mark Trend Upholstery - $1.75
• 1974 - Rayovac - $1.75
- Silpit Industries Ltd. -$1.25
- New Flyer - $3.32
• 1976 - VARTA Automotive Batteries - $4.00
- CP Rail - $5.21
- Nutty Club - $2.75
• 1977 - Solfit - $2.90
- Dealership - $3.00
- Post Office - $4.00
• 1979 - Manitoba Hog Marketing Board - $3.13
• 1980 - Burron Lumber - $3.75
- Autoline - $2.20
• 1982 - Security agency - $4.00
- Stage West Dinner Theatre - $4.00
• 1982 - Westin Hotel - $4.00
• 1993 – Motor Coach Industries - $9.60

Peso devaluation and migration

I searched online for the exchange rates between the US dollar and the Philippine peso. Interestingly, in the period of dictatorship, the peso was continually devaluated, which in turn devaluated the labour power. From 1968, the Philippine peso was 3.9 to a US dollar. In 1970, it became 5.9; in 1971, it was 6.4; and in 1975, 7.2.

After seven years in 1982, one US dollar was equalto Php 8.5. When Ninoy Aquino was assassinated in 1983, the exchange rate was upped to 11.1, 16.69 in 1984, and 18.6 in 1985.

By 1986, the peso was further devaluated to 20.3. In 1988, a year after the Mendiola Massacre, it was Php 21.0 to a dollar, and in 1990, it increased to 24.3 (Source: IMF/IFS). The trend of devaluing the peso continued unabated after the EDSA Revolution amid the reign of neoliberal policies that started in the late 60s, pushing people to migrate as cheap labourers.

The impact of labour-export policy

The majority of the compatriots whom I interviewed shared that they left the old country for better opportunities to secure their personal situation and to help family members through immigration programs like the Special Manitoba Garment Worker Scheme in the 70s and the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program in the 90s. Migration to countries like Canada was the prevailing condition, especially between 1968 and 1986 when the Philippines was under authoritarian rule. This was to secure and consolidate neoliberalism as an expression of the semi-feudal and semi-colonial status of the country. The 1986 EDSA uprising, which people thought gave hope of freedom and a new beginning was also betrayed by the blatant neoliberal policies such as the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) or the Philippines 2000 of President Fidel Ramos. All these years and important events hastened labour export and brain-drain of the country. This demonstrates the pre-industrial and agricultural conditions of the Philippines and affirms the impact of its labour-export policy.

Union and surviving through the years

It is worth mentioning that most of the members of the community whom I interviewed regarding their first pay cheques were also members of unions in the early 70s. Most of them began in the garment industry and moved on to become members of unions like the Canadian Auto Workers, CP Rail, CN Rail, and others.

Most of the senior friends eventually found better jobs to support their families through the years. Nowadays, they usually hang out with friends at malls or every other year, travel to the Philippines to visit relatives and help the community.

I want to thank the following for providing information on their hourly wage throughout the years (1968 to the 90s): Mateo Ramos, Jun Camaclang, Danny Henson, Jun Felipe, Reynaldo “Rey” Reyes, Raul Ibabaw, Esmeraldo “Esmi” Ledesma, Jess Lazo, Manny Joven, Romy Tabanera, Erik Sunga, Nestor dela Peña, Nestor Abraham, Nemesio Ronquillo, Nestor Nuelan, and Mario Macaraeg.

Levy Abad authored a book titled Rhythms and Resistance: Narrative of Filipino Musicians and Activists (1972-1994). Levy is also a singer-songwriter, poet, and migrant rights activist who has released four albums centred on the life and struggles of migrants.