P13 Cola for Central Visayas approved

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Saturday, February 15, 2014

CEBU CITY -- Minimum wage earners from areas hit by calamities will not be covered by the region-wide cost of living allowance (Cola) that the Central Visayas wage board approved on Friday.

Workers who will not report to work on a given day will also not be entitled to the P13 daily Cola, said Jose Tomongha of the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) Visayas.

These were among the conditions of the Cola that members of the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) discussed Friday afternoon.


Tomongha said he and a fellow labor representative, lawyer Ernesto Carreon of the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP), were dismayed with the decision to approve the Cola instead of a region-wide wage increase.

During its hearing Friday, the RTWPB denied the proposed P132 across-the-board increase proposed by the APL and the P90 wage adjustment filed by ALU-TUCP.

At present, workers of the private sector in Metro Cebu are mandated to receive P327 daily.

“Ang nahitabo, una ang management representative, ang ilang gyud gihatagan ug consideration kay ang petition sa chamber of commerce na adunay pagfreeze sa wages. Nakita pud sa government representatives, ila pud gi-okayhan ang pagfreeze sa suholan, pero duna sila’y option na muhatag na lang ug Cola (The management representatives considered the petition of the chamber of commerce to freeze the minimum wage. The government representatives also saw that, so they agreed to keep the minimum wage as it is, but they agreed to give the workers the allowance),” Tomongha said in a radio dyLA interview.

Board decision

The seven-member RTWPB is composed of two labor representatives, two management representatives, and the regional directors of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) and the National Economic and Development Authority.

The Dole director sits as board chairman while the DTI director is vice chair.

Sun.Star Cebu tried to get in touch with Dole-Central Visayas Director Chona Mantilla on Friday to shed light on the deliberations, but she could not be reached for comment.

In a phone interview, DTI-Central Visayas Director Asteria Caberte also refused to comment, saying that only Mantilla is authorized to discuss the matter with the media.

Tomongha said that they tried to fight for a wage increase, but the government and management representatives favored the Cola.

“We were against the Cola but we were outnumbered. Even if it came down to a vote, there is no way we could win so we just considered the Cola, but we insisted that the amount should be added to the daily wage,” he added.

He said that in the end, after deliberating on a Cola of P9.80 to P15, the board agreed on a P13 allowance, “taking into consideration the erosion of the workers’ purchasing power.”

No work, no Cola

Tomongha said that it was also agreed that minimum wage earners from Bohol and northern Cebu towns will not be entitled to the Cola, as businesses there are still recovering from the earthquake and Typhoon Yolanda, respectively.

Workers will also not be entitled to the Cola during holidays.

“If dili ka mutrabaho, wala kay cost of living allowance, bisag holiday an double pay,” the labor representative said.

Tomongha said he and Carreon will not be signing the order mandating the Cola for minimum wage earners in Central Visayas.

Frustrated with the results of the deliberations, he said he plans to resign as labor representative, but he will consult his labor group first.

Carreon, who is area vice president of ALU-TUCP Central Visayas, said that the decision of the RTWPB was unsatisfactory, considering that the Cola cannot be incorporated in a worker’s 13th month pay, overtime pay and holiday pay.

He said he plans to seek the intervention of TUCP Partylist Representative Raymund Mendoza to call for the abolition of the wage board.

“Its presence will only affect the labor sector. The lack of representation from the labor sector proves that the RTWPB does not promote equal footing between the labor and employers’ sectors,” Carreon said.

‘Win-win deal’

After the RTWPB members sign the order, it will be submitted to the National Wages and Productivity Commission.

The order will take effect 15 days after its publication in a newspaper of general circulation.

Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Phillip Tan said the P13 cost of living allowance was something that the business and labor sectors could come up with that was favorable to both parties.

Tan, who joined the deliberations as management representative, said that the business sector also suffered following the calamities that have struck the region. The Cola, he said, is something that will help all sectors survive following the calamities.

Tan said the board will deliberate again in six months if the Cola can be integrated into the minimum wage. They will consider doing this if the economy does well and businesses have recovered from the calamities.

For Tan, the decision from the business sector was in consideration of micro and small businesses.

Small businesses

He pointed out that medium and large enterprises can afford any wage adjustment and that many of the workers of these companies are getting higher than the minimum wage. But micro and small businesses, Tan said, will be most affected by any wage adjustments.

“Mao ni sila ang niagi ug kalisod (They are going through some tough times). These are startup industries and a lot of companies belong to this sector,” he explained.
“Sakit tuod pero dili ni one-sided ang kalisod (It is painful, but hardship does not hit just one group),” added Tan, who described the addition of the Cola as a win-win situation.

For Cebu Business Club President Gordon Alan Joseph, it would be better if the government ensured compliance with the minimum wage order, rather than approve another round of wage increase and allowances.

“Increasing wages and allowances only penalizes the companies and businesses. Increasing wage compliance will help the Filipinos more and it spreads throughout the economy,” he said. (Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 15, 2014.

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