Central Visayas gets P20 pay hike

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Thursday, September 1, 2011


CEBU CITY -- After a deliberation that stretched more than five hours, the Central Visayas wage board decided Wednesday to increase the minimum wage by P20.

This brings the minimum wages in the region to a range of P240 to P305 a day, depending on where the companies are based and their line of business. For Metro Cebu workers, the current rate is P285.

Director Exequiel Sarcauga of the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole)-Central Visayas said the P20 increase applies to all minimum wage earners and reminded employers to correct any wage distortions.

"The increase does not cover those receiving above the minimum wage. But it is now the responsibility of all employers concerned to correct any wage distortion," Sarcauga said in a press conference.

Those who voted for the P20 increase were management representatives lawyer Hidelito Pascual and businessman Charles Streegan, and the two government representatives: Director Efren Carreon of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda)-Central Visayas and Director Asteria Caberte of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)-Central Visayas.

Labor sector representatives lawyer Ernesto Carreon of the Associated Labor Union-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) and Marianito Ventura of the Trade Union of the Philippines and Allied Services (Tupas) abstained from the voting.

Sarcauga, as chairman of the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB), only votes if there's a tie.

Atty. Carreon said he and Ventura pushed for a higher amount, starting at P100. They later brought this down to P50, then P25, but the approved amount was even lower.

He said that in September 2010, the RTWPB in the region increased the minimum wage by P18 (from P276 to P285 in Metro Cebu) when the purchasing power of peso was still higher than at present.

At that time, gasoline was still P45 per liter, or about P5 cheaper than current prices.

"The economic indicators revealed there is a dramatic recovery of the economy in the banking, transport, communication and retail sectors. So why not give a higher amount of wage increase?" Atty. Carreon said.

The last wage order took effect exactly a year ago today. However, the wage board exempted export companies from the increase until February 12, 2011, because the recession in the United States and weak demand from other countries hit the sector badly.

Streegan believes he and Pascual may be lambasted by the business sector for supporting the P20 increase because while the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry is very competitive, exporters and other sectors still suffer from weak demand abroad, among other factors.

Among the facts considered in the decision was that an estimated 30.2 percent of the population is poor.

Director Carreon, on the other hand, believes their decision to increase the floor wage by P20 is the best they can do at present.

"We know this will not solve poverty but this will be supplemented by the efforts of other government agencies and all sectors of society," Director Carreon said.

Caberte said she doesn't expect that the increase in wages will drive up prices of basic commodities because of the three months worth of inventory kept by businesses.

Caberte said they also considered the importance of saving jobs, when they discussed the increase.

"This is the reason why we looked at a lot of macro-indicators. We looked at the poverty threshold. We found out that Region 7 has high poverty incidence, but is also high in employment rate," Caberte said.

Sarcauga said they will submit the new wage order to the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC) for approval. He hopes the new wage order will be published in the newspapers within one week, so the new wage rate can be implemented before the end of September.

Sarcauga said that once the new wage order is implemented, they will wait for two payroll periods before they will send inspectors to various firms to check compliance. (Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 01, 2011.

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