CEBU CITY -- The wage board agreed Thursday to adjust the minimum daily wage in Central Visayas by P18.

Some labor groups criticized the amount as too small but which a business leader said is adequate considering the finances many companies are in.

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The increase adjusts the daily minimum wage from P267 to P285.

The export sector is not covered by the increase until February 12, 2011 to allow it to recover from a global economic crisis and the depreciation of the dollar, the wage board said.

The approval to grant minimum wage earners an increase came in the final deliberation of the proposal by the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB).

Present in the deliberation were Department of Labor and Employment Regional Director Elias Cayanong, who also chairs the RTWPB; National Economic and Development Authority Regional Director Marlene Rodriguez; Department of Trade and Industry Director Asteria Caberte; management representatives Hernan Streegan and Hedelito Pascual; and labor sector representative Marianito Ventura.

The P18-increase under Wage Order No. 15 covers the entire Central Visayas and all sectors whether industrial or agricultural and sugar-producing firms.

“There was no voting to avoid technicalities. It was a consensus of all the members. It was an agreement of the parties,” Cayanong said.

Cayanong said the wage increase is not across-the-board.

Only workers receiving the present minimum daily wage of P267 gets the P18 increase.

To correct wage distortions, management will have to adjust the current wages to be able to comply with the new minimum wage of P285, Cayanong said.

The new minimum wage takes effect only 15 days after the wage order and its implementing rules and guidelines are published in a newspaper of general circulation.

Josefina Lim of the Associated Labor Union (ALU) said the RTWPB decision is shocking and ridiculous given the poverty of workers in Central Visayas.

Lim said the wage board of Northern Mindanao where Cagayan de Oro City is, gave a higher increase.

The Misamis Oriental wage board granted an adjustment of P25, P13 of which is wage increase and P12 cost of living allowance (Cola).

But Cayanong said Northern Mindanao’s wage increase is only P13 and the Cola was simply integrated in the wage.

“On record, the wage increase in Region 7 (Central Visayas) in the amount of P18 is still higher than that in other regions,” Cayanong said.

Cayanong said the wage board came up with a figure that was acceptable to the government, management and labor representatives.

Going beyond P18 would mean delaying the granting of an increase, the wage board chairman said.

Eric Ng Mendoza, president of the Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry, appealed to employers to comply with the new minimum wage.

Mendoza said firms that cannot afford to grant the increase can apply for exemption.

The Partido ng Manggagawa said Thursday the decision to grant an increase of only P18 reinforces its call for Congress to pass a law creating a National Living Wages Commission that will look into the welfare of the workers and consequently abolish the RTWPB.

Lim said ALU supports the call to abolish the regional wage boards as she accused the wage board of being pro-management. (Elias O. Baquero of Sun.Star Cebu)