3-3 vote in C. Visayas wage board; more consultations ahead

Published by rudy Date posted on May 20, 2011

STALEMATE IN WAGE HIKE

A tie vote of 3-3 by the Central Visayas wage board yesterday forced members to look harder into the merit of giving an early minimum wage hike.

Members agreed to schedule consultations in May and June in provinces of Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor and Negros Oriental to determine if there is basis to declare a “supervening condition” to support increasing the floor wage, which is P285 a day in Metro Cebu and lower for other parts of the region.

“At this point in time, the board failed to arrive at a conclusive decision. With this result, the board instead agreed that a consultation be conducted in the four provinces of region 7,” said Exequiel Sarcauga, chairman of the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB).

Sarcauga, regional director of the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole), voted in favor of the declaration of a “supervening condition,” which is needed to justify adjusting the floor wage earlier than a one-year limit set by the Labor Code.

Two other labor sector representatives voted in favor.

But the vote result was not binding because the concurrence of four board members is needed.

Under rules on minimum wage fixing, no wage order shall be disturbed within 12 months unless there is supervening condition like an extraordinary increase in prices of gasoline and basic goods and services. The last Wage Order No. 15 was issued in August 2010.

“So the purpose of the consultation is not to entertain if there is a need to alter the existing wage structure. It is to look at the economic condition at the provincial level. Then the board can probably come up with a more precise assessment of the regional condition,” Sarcauga said.

The consultations will start on May 26 in Cebu City for the whole Cebu, June 2 for Bohol province, June 9 for Siquijor, and June 10 for Negros Oriental.
Various stakeholders will be invited from labor groups, business sector, nongovernment organizations, informal sectors and others.

Wage boards in the National Capital Region (including Metro Manila) and Eastern Visayas already decided to give workers economic relief through a cost of living allowance.

Those who voted against a “supervening condition” declaration were representatives of the National Economic Development Authority (Neda), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Charles Streegan of the business sector.

They noted that Cebu’s inflation April rate of 4.6 percent did not breach the 5 percent inflation target set by Central Bank.

Last week, the wage board voted 3-2 in favor of the declaration of the supervening condition.

It had to repeat the process because four votes are needed to be a binding decision, based on the opinion of the legal department of the National Wages and Productivity Commission in Manila.

Two members were absent, Neda Regional Director Marlene Rodriguez and management sector representative Hidelito Pascual.
Yesterday, Pascual was absent but Rodriguez sent her assistant regional director Efren Carreon.

Two labor representatives were lawyer Ernesto Carreon and Marianito Ventura.

The board again decided to vote the issue, and the first result was 3-2 against the declaration.

Although the chairman is only made to vote to break a tie, Sarcauga was asked this time to participate. He took the same side as the labor sector.

Carreon, who is also the chief legal counsel of ALU TUCP in Central Visayas, pointed out that the inflation rate in NCR for April was even 4.2 percent and fuel prices there are lower than in Cebu, yet the region granted a pay hike for its private sector employees.

But Streegan answered him by saying the Central Visayas board was independent from the NCR wage body.

“I am very disappointed with the outcome,” said Carreon. –Jhunnex Napallacan, Philippine Daily Inquirer

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