DAVAO CITY -- The national minimum wage being imposed throughout the Philippines does not provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family, a United States’ 2009 Human Rights Country Report stated.

The US Department of State said the working condition in the country is not favorable as even with the implementation of a new law that exempted minimum wage earners from paying the income tax, the situation did not improve because the Regional Tripartite Wage and Productivity Board (RTWPB) in every political region has not approved an increase in minimum wages.

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In this city alone, the minimum wage is pegged at P265, which the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) aims to increase by an additional P75.

The proposed increase can be broken down into the following: P26.50 from the actual 10 percent increase in prices between June 2008 and January 2010; P23.50 for the projected nine percent increase in the Consumer Price Index between February 2010 and December 2010; and P25 for the years since 1989, wherein there were no increases in the real wage of the labor sector.

Citing the exemptions made by the RTWPB, the State Department said that some newly established companies and other employers work against the rules because of factors such as business size, industry sector, export intensity, financial distress, and level of capitalization that in effect excluded a substantial number of workers from coverage under the law.

Moreover, the report cited the violations on the implementation of the minimum wage, and that the use of contract employees was prevalent in the Philippine labor sector, even in special economic zones (SEZs).

SEZs are areas identified by the government where tax holidays and other forms of benefits are extended to investors.

According to a January to June Bureau of Working Conditions report, 497 of 1,208 inspected firms were found to have violated labor or occupational safety and health standards.

It revealed that 46 percent (554 out of 1,208) of commercial establishments inspected by the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) were not in compliance with the prevailing minimum wage.

The Dole provided training and advisory services to enterprises with less than 10 workers to help them comply with national labor laws and core labor standards.

Establishments employing 200 or more persons and unionized establishments with collective bargaining agreements are subject to self-assessment of compliance with labor standards.

The labor agency, however, acknowledged that the shortage of inspectors made it difficult to enforce the law.

In addition to fines, the government also used administrative procedures and moral suasion to encourage employers to rectify violations voluntarily. Complaints about non-payment of social security contributions, bonuses, and overtime were particularly common with regard to companies in SEZs. (Carlo P. Mallo/Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)