No floor pay hike for Region 12 workers until yearend

GENERAL SANTOS CITY(MindaNews/04 May) – Minimum wage earners in the private sector in Region 12 (Southwestern Mindanao) will not be getting any increase in their daily wages for the rest of the year unless a supervening event unexpectedly occurs in the area.

Patricio Blanza, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Sarangani/General Santos City director, said Friday the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) could not issue a new wage order until December as the law disallows the granting of wage hikes within a one-year period.

He said the second tranche of additional benefits for local workers incorporated in the prevailing wage order only took effect on December 1, 2012.

“We’re not against the granting of salary increases to our workers. (But) there are specific provisions in the wage law that we must comply,” he said.

Under the law, Blanza said all issued wage orders may not be disturbed for a period of 12 months from its effectivity and no petition for wage increase shall be entertained within the said period unless there are supervening conditions.

The supervening conditions could be an extraordinary increase in prices of petroleum products, basic goods and services, he said.

Private workers in the region initially received an additional cost-of-living allowance or Cola of P6 to P8 starting April last year as provided for in Wage Order XII-17.

It set an additional Cola of P4 to P6 for the second tranche starting December 1, 2012.

Region 12, also called the Soccsksargen region, comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.

Non-agriculture workers in the region presently receive a minimum daily pay of P270 while agriculture plantation and non-plantation workers get P248 and P243, respectively.

For workers in retail and service establishments, the current minimum wage is P246 for those employing more than 10 workers and P240 for those with less than 10 employees.

Blanza said the RTWPB, which is chaired by the DOLE regional director, convened last month in nearby Koronadal City but did not consider any supervening condition then that will warrant another wage increase for local private workers.

During the meeting, he said regional officials of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) reported that the area’s socio-economic condition has remained stable in the past several weeks.

Local labor groups earlier criticized the prevailing minimum daily wage in the region as it is supposedly not enough to cover for the basic needs of the workers and their families.

Herbert Demos, regional coordinator of the Alliance of Progressive Labor, said their computation showed that workers in the area should receive a daily living wage of P600 or P330 more than the highest current minimum wage in the region.

But Ofelia Domingo, DOLE Region 12 director, said the present wage rates were based on intensive studies made by the RTWPB, which includes the NEDA and DTI.

“(NEDA and DTI) provide us with the right information so we can come up with a minimum wage that is win-win for both the labor and employers’ sector,” she said. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)