RTWPB 7 head: Expect wage hike in Central Visayas this September

File Photo
File Photo

A WAGE increase will be implemented in Central Visayas come September, the wage and productivity board chairperson has announced, but a labor group leader insists that it must be pushed sooner since it is already long overdue.

Lilia Estillore, chairperson of the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board in Central Visayas (RTWPB 7), made the promise in an interview after the second wage public hearing happened Wednesday, July 26, 2023 at the Department of Education EcoTech Center in Barangay Lahug, Cebu City.

“There is no doubt that there will be an increase because even the representatives from the business sector acknowledged that there should be a wage hike implemented in the region,” she said.

Estillore, also the director of the Department of Labor and Employment in the region (Dole 7), however, said the board still has to deliberate on the amount.

More hearings

The board is still on its second of five consultations set in different areas of the region to hear the grievances, opinions and suggestions of the employer and employee sectors on the amount of the wage hike.

The wage public hearing started last July 10 in Bogo City in northern Cebu, followed by the hearing in Cebu City Wednesday. Three more hearings will be conducted: City of Naga in southern Cebu, August 1; Bohol, August 10; and Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental, August 11.

The RTWPB 7 is composed of Estillore, the chairperson; regional directors Maria Elena Arbon of the Department of Trade and Industry and Jennifer Bretaña of the National Economic and Development Authority; members from the labor sector represented by Antonio Cuizon and Nora Analyn Diego; and Joseph Tanco and Dr. Philip Tan as the management representatives.

The last daily wage increase implemented in the region was the P31 for all private sector workers and P500 monthly increase for domestic workers, which took effect on June 14, 2022.

Current wage

In Central Visayas, the current daily minimum wage for non-agricultural workers in Class A towns and cities is P435, while non-agricultural employers with less than 10 workers and the employers in the agricultural industry pay employees P425.

Class A cities include Carcar, Cebu, Danao, Lapu-Lapu, Mandaue, Naga, Talisay; and Class A municipalities are Compostela, Consolacion, Cordova, Liloan, Minglanilla, San Fernando or the Expanded Metro Cebu.

For Class B, the minimum wage is P397 for non-agricultural and P392 for the other classification. In Class C areas, wage is at P387 for non-agricultural workers and P382 for agricultural and non-agricultural companies with less than 10 workers.

Class B are the other cities not covered under Class A, while Class C are municipalities not under Class A and Class B.

Two petitions

The wage public hearing will also tackle the two joint petitions for wage hike in the region filed by 20 Cebu-based labor groups and unions with the RTWPB 7 in the past months.

There is a petition for a P100 increase in the daily minimum wage led by Partido Manggagawa-Cebu (PM Cebu), and a petition filed by Cebu Labor Coalition that demands a P292.50 hike in the daily minimum wage among private workers and P1,000 hike for the monthly pay of domestic helpers or “katabang” in Cebuano.

In filing the petitions, PM Cebu was joined by 12 other labor groups: Alyansa sa mga Mamumuo sa Sugbo-Kilusang Mayo Uno (AMA Sugbo-KMU), Alyansa sa Mamumuong Kontraktwal sa Sugbo, Sentro ng Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa, Globalwear Employees Union-Piglas, Association of Globalwear Supervisory Employees Union–Piglas, Mepz Workers Alliance, Workers Organization of Lami Food, Prince Warehouse Club Mandaue Employees Union–Law, Ilaw–Buklod ng Manggagawa-United Miners of Carmen Copper, Kepco Cebu Employees Union-Workers Solidarity Network, Ilaw at Buklod ng Manggagawa sa General Milling Corp. and Bohol Alliance of Labor Organizations.

Seven other groups signed the petition filed by Metudio Belarmino of the Cebu Labor Coalition: Alvin Pino, president of Lonbisco Employees Organization; Melchor Atupan, president of Metaphil Workers Union; Nicholou Malazarte, president of Union Bank Employees Association; Paul Alvin Fajardo, representative of CELAC; Clarisa Torino, president of United Domestic Workers of the Philippines; Bonifacio Tiongzon, president of Transasia Union; and Alan Gascon, director of the board of the Cebu City Tripartite Industrial Peace Council.

Struggles

During the public hearing, some employers said some companies are struggling to survive post-pandemic amid the looming global recession.

Catherine Son-Lauzon, a representative of a furniture manufacturer, said “we cannot afford” a P100 wage hike. She suggested a P40 or P50 wage hike instead.

She said although they can apply for an exemption from the wage hike, she is afraid that their employees will seek better-paying jobs, which she said is the tendency of Gen Z employees in the workforce.

Gen Z is the generation born between 1997 and 2012.

According to the National Wages and Productivity Commission, companies allowed to seek exemption are those engaged in retail and service businesses that employ not more than 10 workers, as well as establishments adversely affected by natural calamities or human-induced disasters.

Patrick Tolentino, a representative of a construction company, said though there are times that the operating costs in their industry are quite high, he believed that it was about time a wage hike was given to the workers in the region.

Long overdue

Jaime Paglinawan of AMA Sugbo-KMU said the wage hike must be implemented very soon or earlier than September.

Paglinawan pointed to a news article published by SunStar Cebu last April 28, which reported figures from the Philippine Statistics Authority in Central Visayas showing the steady growth of the economy in the region, as proof that businesses have the capacity to give a wage hike.

The Gross Regional Domestic Product was P1.135 trillion in 2020, growing to P1.196 trillion in 2021, then to P1.287 trillion in 2022.

The labor leader explained that in a family of five, with the minimum wage stuck at P435, each member would have only P87 per day or P29 per meal to survive on, leaving nothing for other expenses such as electricity, water, rent, transportation and deductions for social benefits.

Citing data from Ibon Foundation, Paglinawan told SunStar Cebu last June 15 that the living wage required for a family of five to live comfortably is P1,160 or a monthly wage of P25,226.

The living wage is the minimum income required for a family of five to sustain their daily needs.

Paglinawan also slammed the wage board in the region for the delay in conducting the wage public hearing, saying that recently, workers in Metro Manila had a P40 increase in their daily wage “from their already higher daily wage at P570.”

Estillore said the reason for the delay is that unlike Metro Manila, Central Visayas is an archipelagic region, meaning the four provinces are far from each other.

Other concerns

Ariel Sarsaba, chairperson of the National Union of Food Delivery Riders in Cebu, raised his concerns on his sector.

He demanded that the board implement standardized benefits and insurance for all food delivery riders, saying his job had been among the economic drivers since the Covid-19 pandemic started.

He said while some companies offer these to their employed food delivery riders, others do not.

Estillore said they still need to study the framework of the job of food delivery riders since it is still a new concept to them.

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