With a vote of 4-2 , the Regional Tripatite Wages and Productivity Board in Central Visayas (RTWPB-7) approved the P20 hike in the daily floor wage for workers in the provinces of Cebu, Bohol, Negros Oriental and Siquijor.
The increase means the basic pay for private sector workers in Metro Cebu will be P305 a day from the current P285.
In Cebu towns outside the metropolis, the floor wage will be P285, except for the remote towns of Bantayan and Camotes islands where the new rate is P260 a day.
Other parts of the region will have different amounts depending on the classification of the province, city or town. (See table on this page).
Wage Order No. 6 which includes the P20 increase in the minimum wage will take effect 15 days after publication of the full text.
It will be implemented before the end of this month, according to the wage board, after it sends the new wage order and its implementing rules to Manila for approval by the National Wages and Productivity Commission, and the full text is published in newspapers.
A P20 hike is “the highest issued by the Central Visay wage board so far”, said the labor department representative who heads the board, Exequiel Sarcauga.
He said this was better than other regions which only raised the workers’ cost of living allowance.
Management representatives Charles Streegan and Hidelito Pascual voted for a P20 increase.
So did the two government representatives Regional Directors Asteria Caberte of the Department of Trade and Industry, and Efren Carreon of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).
The two labor representatives Ernesto Carreon and Marianito Ventura voted against the P20 wage hike, saying it was too small and insignificant to make a dent on poverty.
The decision capped five hours of deliberation by the board, which dismissed the petition for a P100 across-the-board increase filed by the Associated Labor Unions and a P120 increase asked by the Alliance of Progressive Labor.
In the negotiations, Carreon pushed for a P50 hike as a compromise.
Management and government panel members countered with P20, which Carreon said he opposed. His new proposal for a P25 hike was voted down in favor of P20.
NOT ACROSS THE BOARD
The wage increase is estimated to be implemented before the end of this month.
Sarcauga said the wage increase is not across the board but applies to minimum wage earners.
He said it’s up to employers if they want to give more.
Non-agricultural workers in Class A localities, which includes Metro Cebu from Carcar City in the south to Danao City in the north, will receive P305 a day instead of the current P285 for non-agricultureal workers.
Class B, which covers areas outside Metro Cebu, except for Bantayan and Camotes islands, will have a floor wage of P285 a day instead of the current P265.
Class C covers Bohol and Negros Oriental. The minimum wage of P255 will go up to P275 a day.
Class D, which includes Siquijor province, Bantayan and Camotes islands in Cebu, wil have a new minimum wage of P260 a day instead of the current P240.
For the agricultural sector, workers in Class A, B, C and D currently get P267, P250, P235 and P220 a day. This will increase by P20 a day as well.
Business establishments facing financial constraints for the past two years can seek exemption for one year provided they submit evidence such as financial statements to the board.
“An exemption is not automatic. It has to be applied for and duly approved,” he said.
The wage board considered factors such as purchasing power, the poverty index and inflation rate.
Other factors were the 30.2 percent poverty threshold, price increases on basic and prime commodities and cost of living standards in the region.
“We have to balance whether Cebu can continue to be competitive in terms of attracting employment as against the other regions,” Streegan said in yesterday’s press conference.
NEDA-7 chief Carreon said they also considered the high poverty incidence of 30.2 percent in region 7.
“What if we increase the minimum wage but experience a decline in employment level?” he said.
Better than nothing
Michael Mendoza, area vice president of ALU TUCP in Central Visayas said, the amount was too low but “it’s better than nothing.”
The labor department will inspect business establishments for compliance after two payroll periods based on the effectivity of the new wage order.
In the previous wage order, Sarcauga said non-compliance was reported in 38 percent of 44,000 companies in Region 7.
Streegan said the P20 increase was just enough to bridge the wage gap and “not go beyond” the level employers can afford.
In wage fixing, “it will always be too little for labor and too much for the management,” he said.
Some Cebu business leaders welcomed the P20 ncrease. Cebu Business Club president Gordon Alan Joseph said the amount was “moderate.”
“But it’s better to create more jobs and ensure better enforcement of minimum wage laws,” he said.
Filipino Cebuano Business Club president Rey Calooy said the business sector in Cebu can implement the new pay level.
“(We are) ready. Wage is a necessary component of productivity as long as it is reasonable,” Calooy said.
But Calooy said he feared that only medium and large enterprises can afford the increase. Meanwhile, 99 percent of all establishments in the country are micro enterprises. /By Jhunnex Napallacan and Candeze R. Mongaya with Reporter Aileen Garcia-Yap