By Danny O. Calleja
LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 3 (PNA) — The labor sector in Bicol wants an increase of Php50 in their daily wage.
The amount of increase came up as the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) recently started its series of public hearings in the six provinces of the region to determine the need, if there is any, for an increase in the daily minimum wage in the private sector and how much is necessary.
In asking for the Php50 increase, the workers led by the Alliance on Progressive Labor (APL) insisted that cost of living has gone up due to soaring prices of basic commodities and services including, transportation, electricity and water — keeping below the poverty line households that earn only Php236 per day.
They cited that the poverty threshold in Bicol as determined by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) currently stands at of Php245 per day.
Workers in the private sector of the region work hard but the daily wage they receive makes it difficult for them to feed a family of five and send their children to school, the APL said, suggesting that the proposed Php50 hike would at least provide a breathing space as the extra money, on top of the Php245 poverty threshold, will augment their purchasing power.
The prevailing regional daily minimum wage based on Wage Order No. RBV-16, which took effect in January 10, 2014, is Php260 for establishments with more than 10 workers and Php236 for those with less than 10 workers in both the agriculture and non-agriculture sectors.
The APL is also asking for the activation of the Regional Tripartite Monitoring Board (RTMB) to ensure compliance by employers with the new minimum wage that the RTWPB is expected to set based on the results of the ongoing public hearings.
Earlier, the regional office here of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) revealed that about 13.90 percent of Bicol employers do not comply with the current minimum wage rate based on monitoring results as of last July.
This came up, despite the new online labor laws compliance system which automatically tracks down, rates and reports the output of compliance officers formerly known as inspectors.
“Of course, we will always see labor violations. I think it is impossible for us to have full compliance, DOLE Bicol assistant regional director Ma. Karina Trayvilla said.
Last July, DOLE Bicol assessed a total of 971 establishments, of which 967 were covered by regular assessment and four were covered by compliance visits, an assessment initiated if a complaint from a worker is received.
Out of the 971 establishments assessed, DOLE recorded 334 violations on general labor standards which include 135 were underpayment of wages, 14 violations on rest periods, 65 violations on overtime pay, 162 violations on holiday and special day pay, 41 violations on service incentive leave (SIL), 72 violations on 13th month pay while 58 violations on records keeping.
Of the 437 violations on Occupational Safety and Health Standards, DOLE noted 135 establishments were not conforming on safety and health organization, 112 with no health personnel, 5 with no medical facility, 10 with no emergency medicine and 9 establishments with other safety and health concerns.
Actually, the drawback was the result of the new system which changed the police approach of enforcing the compliance of the law to a liberal “developmental” and much less effective one, according to another local DOLE official.
In a statement, the APL said the region’s labor sector is hopeful that the RTWPB will act favorably on the new wage increase being asked by the workers that prices of basic commodities, especially rice, have been continuously hurting them and their families.
“We are not asking for too much. What we are seeking is a fair share from the profit that employers are reaping from our labor,” the APL said.
Bicol’s labor force was placed by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) as of January this year at 3.9 million, representing the total population of individuals 15 years old and above.
As of the same month, the region’s employment rate was 93.7 percent, which posted an improvement from the 92.5 percent in 2014 based on the recent round of the Labor Force Survey of the PSA.
In 2013, the sector asked for an increase amounting Php37 but what the RTWPB granted under Wage Order No. RBV-16 was only Php8 per worker per day added to the rates provided under the previous rate of Php252 for establishments more than 10 workers and Php228 in those that employ less than 10 workers.
DOLE Regional Director Nathaniel Lacambra, who also chairs the RTWPB, said that since the public hearings are to determine the wage level that would be arrived at as a good compromise for both the employees and employers sides, the labor sector’s wish for a Php50 hike has to go under the process.
The decision on the proposed daily wage increase will be issued by the board 45 days after its last public consultation in the region, whose result will also depend on some economic variables, among them the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and inflation rate.
According to the PSA, the latest inflation rate in Bicol has bottomed out but price hikes in fuel oil that impacted on other commodities sent it inching up.
In its latest report, the PSA said inflation rate in the region inched up 0.1-percentage point in March, placing its year-on-year change at 2.6 percent—faster by 0.2-percentage point than the national average.
However, this increase came 2.0-percentage points lower than the rate in the same period last year and brought the region’s average inflation rate for the first quarter of the year to 2.8 percent.
The report said that the recent round of price hikes of gasoline and diesel resulted in the 2.0-percentage point increase in the Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas, and Other Fuels commodity group.
Average prices of consumer goods, however, have remained stable as the monthly CPI managed to shed 0.5 point, settling at 145.8, the PSA report added. (PNA)