Wage board hearing pay hike in S. Mindanao

Ponciano Ligutom, RTWPB 11 chair and regional director of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), said they are now proceeding to sector consultations after holding marathon hearings in Digos, Tagum and Davao on July 17 to 19.

Ligutom said on Aug. 19, a month after the last public hearing was conducted, they will release a decision but could not reveal just yet if the 1.6 million workers in the region can expect an increase in the minimum pay.

Speaking to reporters at the Kapihan sa SM City press conference Monday, Ligutom used the term "adjustment" to any outcome of the board's deliberations.

The government labor official said no adjustments could be made within a year after the last wage order, except for some exceptional circumstances.

He also denied the review was prompted by the latest petition, saying they are doing it on their own. But he admitted that labor representatives reiterated the P75 petition in the public hearings.

He said the representatives from the management sector have pleaded "it is not yet time for increases".

RTWPB issued two wage orders in 2006, one in February and in July, with the latter approved over rising fare rates.

Virginia Camus, of the Federation of Free Workers, one of two representatives from the labor sector in the board, told MindaNews the labor sector has dissented the "no hike" move, eyeing for the across-the-board petition.

She said, however, there are signs of an increase with the government sector holding the middle ground. She also cited the management of a mall in Tagum City, who agreed during the public hearing to a P5 hike.

Camus cited the importance of the hearings and the consultations, but they also employ other tools, like facts and figures from government agencies and position papers from different organizations having a stake on the wage issue.

She said after the board spends more time consulting with the management sector on July 24 and with the labor sector on July 25, they will buckle up for "bloody deliberations."

She said even if the seven members of the board act like professionals and treat others in a civil manner, they never stand back in defending the interests of their representation.

The members never hold back on their fighting spirit, especially if they find their sector being sidelined in decisions, Camus revealed.

 

She said despite that, however, the board has brought changes in the labor sector's demand for higher pay through the years.

Camus, former head of the Ateneo de Davao University union for 27 years, said RTWPB helped workers negotiate for pay hikes.

In the limelight at the board with Ligutom and Camus are regional director Merly Cruz of the Department of Trade and Industry, regional director Nicasio Angelo Agustin of the National Economic and Development Authority, former Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Bienvenido Cariaga, Rulvo V. Asis of the Personnel Management Association of the Philippines, and George Alegarbe of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP).

The regional wage boards were created in 1989 and became functional in 1990 to rationalize wage adjustments among the country's wage boards.

Workers in labor unions, which have collective bargaining agreements with employers, may not be too dependent on RTWPB wage orders.

As of December, however, only 68,000 of Southeastern Mindanao's 1.6 million workers, or 4.25 percent, are members of labor unions and only a fourth of the region's 618 unions have a collective bargaining agreements, the DOLE reported.

Nelson Bautista, media relations officer of the labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), told MindaNews in an earlier interview workers who belong to labor unions avail of a "shield against exploitation" for job security, economic, and political rights in the workplace.

Ligutom himself admitted that only 65 percent of the employers in the region comply with minimum wage rates provided in wage orders because the board does not have the time and resources to inspect all establishments.

As of the last wage order approved on July 27, 2006 and due to expire this week, the minimum wage rate for non-agricultural workers is P224 per day plus P16 cost of living allowance. In the agricultural sector, P214 per day for plantation workers and P193 per day for non-plantation workers plus the P16 cost of living allowance.

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