S. Mindanao wage board approves P16 hike

Southeastern Mindanao comprises the three Davao provinces, Compostela Valley and the cities of Davao, Tagum, Panabo, Samal and Digos.

In the three Davao provinces and Compostela Valley, the COLA adjustment now pegs the minimum wage for workers in non-agricultural sectors at P238, for agricultural workers in plantations at P228 and P207 for agricultural workers in smaller farms and for retail and service workers.

Approved on July 10, the increase will take effect on July 27, 15 days after the publication in a local newspaper.

The adjustment was approved amid “vehement dissent” by representatives from the labor sector and pleas for understanding by the business sector in the regional wage board, lawyer  Ma.  Gloria A. Tango, regional director of the Department of Labor and Employment, said.

In approving Wage Order No. 11-13,  Tango said they balanced the needs of workers and the pleas of management to allow increases that will not make them close shop.            

As of March 2006, the daily cost of living was pegged at P674.

The wage board approved two increases in last year at P14 daily wage increase that took effect on July 2 and an additional P15 COLA.

She said they carefully studied the criteria in approving the minimum wage, such as the purchasing power of the peso, inflation rate in the region, estimated real daily threshold, investment in the last two years, capacity of employers to pay, employment rate, and poverty.

"The results of the studies, public hearing and deliberations reveal the need to alleviate the plight of workers and employees in the private sector to help them cope with   the rising cost of living without impairing the productivity and viability of business and industry in the region," the wage order stated. 

Virginia Camus, one of the two labor representatives in the wage board said they "vehemently dissented" becasue the increase is "really too small." Camus and Jorge Alegarbes, another labor representative, signed the order with the notation, "I vehemently dissent."

The labor sector had been clamoring for an increase in wages due to "economic difficulties". In June, the Associated Labor Union endorsed a petition for a   P75 daily increase across the board increase, espoused by the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP).  

The Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) is pushing for a P125 legislated wage hike.

Lawyer Bienvinido Cariaga, president of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc, and one of two representatives of management in the wage board explained that after consulting the business community, “we agreed to endorse only a P16 cost of living allowance.”

"It's the most liberal increase we could give," he said. Cariaga said the P16 COLA is the best they could give as giving more than that would impair their operations.

Rulfo Asis, the other representative from management said it may be true that  investments doubled in the region this year but most of those investments are still on paper.

Cariaga appealed to the workers for understanding. Camus stressed that even if they have vehemently  dissented the order, employers must comply with the wage order.         

Only 81 percent of employers in the region "voluntarily" comply, Tango said, and they have to send compliance orders for the rest. "But only around 40 percent   will comply in the first  three months," she said.                                               

In Northern Mindanao, the Labor department reported an increase of between P8 and P18 in basic pay depending on area classifications.  Earlier, they also approved a P16 COLA.

The Labor department website also reported that in Caraga region, workers will receive an additional P14 in their basic pay before the end of the month based on Wage Order No. 7. A P12 COLA under Wage Order No. 6 was earlier approved.

Tony Mangubat, a supervising labor employment official of the Manila-based National Wage and Productivity Council (NWPC) told MindaNews in a telephone interview the wage boards have discretion on deciding   wage movements in their respective regions pursuant to Republic Act 6727 or the Wage Rationalization Act. 

He said the wage boards in Southwestern Mindanao, Western Mindanao and ARMM are yet to submit their new wage orders. (Walter I. Balane/ MindaNews)