Wage board to decide on pay hike before year-end

The Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board in Region 6 (RTWPB-6) holds a public hearing on the wage increase for workers in private establishments and domestic workers on October 5, 2023, at the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) office in Iloilo City. ((Rjay Zuriaga Castor photo)

By Rjay Zuriaga Castor

The Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board in Region 6 (RTWPB-6) said they will decide on adjustments to the minimum wage rates for private sector workers in Western Visayas before the year 2024.

“As announced already by our [Department of Labor and Employment Secretary] Bienvenido Laguesma, parang ineexpect ang regional offices to issue wage orders [before the year ends],” said DOLE-6 director and RTWPB-6 concurrent chairperson Sixto Rodriguez Jr.

RTWPB-6 on Thursday conducted a public hearing on the petitions for a minimum wage increase at the regional office of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) office in Iloilo City.

Rodriguez said both employee and employer groups had a positive response during the public hearing on the wage increase.

“Medyo positive yung kanilang interaction and we have heard the position of the employees’ group as well as some members of the employers’ group. As per the result of the public hearing kanina on the employees group, kung pagbabasehan natin yung kanilang petition, mukhang may positive na maeexpect natin,” he said.

Rodriguez stated that the board would determine the appropriate wage increase amount after the public hearing, considering factors such as the employers’ capacity to absorb the wage hike.

“After this public hearing, the Board will sit down and deliberate on the matter kung magkano ba dapat ang aming issue or kung meron man o hindi,” he said.

“As to the amount , we have to hear the side of the employers group […] kung ano man ang kanilang pananawa. Kailangan ibalance natin yung kanilang karapatan with that of the employees group,” he added.

Rodriguez said that while some employers maintained a move for a status quo, there are also some who favored a wage increase, underscoring that the percentage of the increase is “not that too high, not that too low.”

The increase will be determined under the various wage determination criteria provided in Republic Act No. 6727 or the Wage Rationalization Act.

The RTWPB-6 consists of a board consisting of seven members, including regional directors representing DOLE, NEDA, DTI, and representatives from both the management and labor sectors.

Labor groups can still submit their position papers until October 17, 2023, via RTWPB-6’s email or at their office in the Jaro district.

The United Labor-Western Visayas, an alliance of labor groups, is still pushing for a P100 “wage recovery” on the daily salary amid the skyrocketing prices of basic commodities and the weakening of the peso’s purchasing power over the past months.

“Given the continuing economic troubles of the country, United Labor has deemed it necessary to increase wages, or at the very least for workers to recover the lost value of their wages. It is a matter of everyday survival for the average wage earner and their family as much as it is for business owners, especially those coming from the micro, small and medium enterprises,” the group said in a position paper shared to Daily Guardian.

It further noted that the increase in wages issued by RTWPB-6 in May 2022 is a welcome relief but “inadequate,” citing that it did not last for in the looming months after “inflation rate spiked up at a rate that was too fast given the many increases in petroleum prices.”

In May last year, the RTWPB-6 issued Wage Order Nos. RBVI-26 and RB-6-DW-04 which mandated wage increases for workers in agricultural and non-agricultural sectors, as well as for domestic workers.

Salaries of non-agricultural workers increased by P55 from P395 to P450 in industries with more than 10 workers, and by P110 from P310 to P420 for those employing 10 or fewer workers.

Agricultural workers’ pay rose by P95, from P315 to P410.00, while domestic workers’ monthly salaries went up by P500, from P4,000 to P4,500.

A year after the wage order, the alliance of labor groups added that the “highest nominal minimum wage for Western Visayas can not even keep up with the poverty threshold determined by the PSA.”

The group noted that according to PSA data, for a family of five, the annual poverty threshold for Western Visayas is at P27,083 (per capita) or P11, 285 (per family of five per month.) It added that a minimum wage earner only earns around P11,700 per month if they work for 26 days (daily paid workers), which is not very far and safe from the said poverty threshold.

“The government data is clear that minimum wage earners within the region are below the poverty threshold,” the position paper further read.

The RTWPB-6 said it is mandated to review the issued wage order to determine if a wage increase is necessary for this year.

“Sa lahat ng concerned employees and also the employers group, kami ay mandated to review yung aming inissue na wage order kung kinakailangan bang mag increase ng wage increase for this year. We will see to it that we will do it the fastest way kung meron man o wala,” Rodriguez said.

He added that the board did not receive position papers for wage increases from household helpers but mentioned that they can initiate action even in the absence of a filed petition for a wage increase.

A public hearing for wage increase for domestic workers or household helpers (kasambahays) was scheduled in the afternoon.

“Walang petition sa kasambahay kaya nga lang motu proprio lang ito, kailangan na ireview din yung aming inissue sa kanila,” he said.

Even in the absence of a filed petition for a wage increase, the RTWPB can motu proprio or initiate an action on whether a wage order should be issued.

Based on the standards and criteria established by law, RTWPB’s authority is only limited to granting regional wage increases to employees earning the statutory minimum wage rates.

Wage orders issued by the regional board cover only private sector workers, except for household or domestic helpers and persons employed in the personal service of another, including family drivers.

The RTWPBs in Regions II and XII recently issued wage orders for private establishments and domestic workers. RTWPB III, meanwhile, issued a wage order for workers in private establishments.