Management groups in Negros Occidental yesterday called the P12 increase in the minimum wage for Western Visayas manageable, while labor said it is not even enough to buy a poor man's meal.
Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon, on the other hand, said the minimum wage should not be legislated, the adjustment of wages should be like free enterprise.
Labor Regional Director Ponciano Ligutom, Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board chair, yesterday announced the approval of the P12 increase that will take effect 15 days after publication of the wage order.
Industrial, commercial and nonagricultural workers employed in firms with more than 10 employees will receive P277 from P265, while those employed in companies with less than 10 workers will receive P235 from P223 per day, he said.
In the agriculture sector, workers employed in plantations will have a minimum wage of P245 from P233 per day, and P235 from P223 for the non-plantation workers, Ligutom added.
Frank Carbon, Metro Bacolod Chamber of Commerce and Industry president, and Ben Ortega, president of the Bacolod Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, called the P12 wage increase manageable.
“The increase of roughly 4.5 percent is manageable to 35 percent of our members, what we cannot afford is the increase in the local tax revenue ordinance.” Ortega said
Carbon said that while the P12 increase in manageable, government should also focus on job creation, attracting investments, and helping businesses survive.
Raymond Montinola, chairman of the Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations-Negros Panay Chapter, said the continued increase of fuel prices compels them to adhere to the P12 wage increase that has become necessary for farm workers and their beneficiaries to survive.
“But for us producers it is untimely due to the excessive drop in sugar production this crop year, with about 20 -30 percent yield decrease in some sugar districts in Negros", he said.
They hope and pray for better production next crop to keep up with the increasing costs, especially on fuel and fertilizer aside from the manpower cost and the drop in sugar prices to half compared to last year, he added.
Enrique Rojas, president of the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters, said he welcomes the latest wage order “because we also want to share the fruits of our endeavors with our workers.”
Considering the tight economy now and the increasing production costs brought about by the unmitigated hikes in fuel prices, this latest wage order is a big sacrifice on the part of the employers, he said.
“However, we will not turn our backs on our partners in the industry. While this P12 daily wage hike is an additional burden to the employers and businessmen, we will respect the decision of the wage board because I believe the wage board has also thoroughly deliberated on the issue,” Rojas said.
“We are dismayed by the new wage hike that is inadequate. It is not substantial even for a poor man's meal”, Wennie Sancho, labor representative on the RTWBP.
“The 12 will not meet the needs of the workers, it is not even enough for trisikad fare,” Hernani Braza, also a labor representative on the wage board, said.
Braza and Sancho said that while they voted for the increase because it is better than nothing, they really had no option since they would be outvoted anyway by management and government representatives on the board.
Marañon said the minimum wage should not be legislated since companies making a lot of money already pay three times the minimum wage, citing San Miguel Corp. among the big paying firms.
“The P12 increase is too small for those (firms) who are making money and too big for those who are losing,” the governor said, noting that losing firms will only end up closing down at the expense of employees who will lose jobs.
There are so many people still with no jobs, what should be done is to find more ways to create jobs, he added.
The minimum wage is a disincentive, it encourages laziness because even if you are lazy you get an increase just the same, he said.
Those who do piece work are more productive and earn more, he noted.
However, removal of the minimum wage is a political issue that no politician will bite, he said.
The governor said his wish for Labor Day is for peace and unity to ensure economic growth.*CPG