Bukidnon workers’ groups want probe of minimum wage implementation

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/3 March) – Workers’ groups here have called on the provincial board to investigate the actual implementation of the minimum wage rate as they revealed that workers are receiving “not even half” of the mandated wage.

The Organisasyon sa Yanong Obrerong Nagkahiusa (OGYON) and Kahugpungan sa mga Mag-uuma (KASAMA-Bukidnon) wrote petition letters for the provincial board to conduct investigations.

The workers also proposed that the amelioration bonus for sugar cane plantation workers be given directly to the workers, not through the sugar cane planters.

The groups reported that the minimum wage rate for the cities of Malaybalay and Valencia and the towns of Maramag, Quezon, and Manolo Fortich is supposed to be P252 per day, and P242 in the rest of Bukidnon.

“But the actual wage rates received by sugarcane workers is not even half of it at P80 to P140 each,” the groups lamented.

In their joint letter to the board signed by OGYON chair Eduardo Legaspi and KASAMA-Bukidnon chair Danilo Menente, the workers asked the investigation of actual pay among the sugar cane planters in each town.

The Bukidnon office of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) admitted it was not able to monitor the non-compliance as they also received no complaints.

Engr. Saturnino Escobido, DOLE-Bukidnon director, told provincial legislators Wednesday they are yet to check on the complaints. His reply drew the ire of the board, who lamented that he should know it as it is their job at the labor office.

Board member Roland Deticio said sugar cane planters must address the problem of violations on the minimum wage law, especially when they are enjoying the fruits of high sugar prices.

On December 5 to 9, farm workers belonging to the two groups have sought the intervention of the provincial government on their plight, including the underpayment of the minimum wage rate and the non-compliance of work benefits and other issuers.

Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr., a sugar scion, said the farmers should report to him who among the Bukidnon sugar planters were violating labor laws.

He then called for the presence of Escobido and the provincial chiefs of offices of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Office and the Department of Agrarian Reform.

Escobido admitted that the social amelioration bonus due to sugarcane farmers have been coursed through the planters instead of the farm workers, an admission that drew Zubiri’s ire.

The farmers demanded that the bonus should be coursed directly to the farmers’ groups, not the planters.

Menente revealed that only few of the workers received the bonus. And if they did, the amount was for pittance.

Under the Sugar Amelioration Act of 1991 or Republic Act 6982, the DOLE shall set aside 10 liens, which is equivalent to P10, in every LKG (50 kilos) of sugar produced.

This will go to the Social Amelioration Fund (SAF), of which 80 percent should go to social amelioration bonus while the remaining 20 percent goes to an economic project for the farm workers, maternity and death benefits and administrative support.

The farmers’ groups asserted that most of the sugar workers, especially the seasonal and pakyaw-based, do not know about social amelioration and its benefits. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)