Saturday, February 20, 2016

DOLE warns Bicol employers on new wage order violation
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 17 (PNA) –- The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Bicol regional office on Wednesday said it is monitoring the compliance of employers in the region with the new wage order mandating increases in minimum daily workers’ pay as the agency warned that violators would be heavily penalized.

Wage Order No. RBV-17, which took effect last Dec. 25, raised the minimum daily wages in the region by Php5 for workers in non-agriculture establishments whose employees are more than 10 workers and Php12 for those working also in non-agriculture establishments employing not more than 10 workers.

Workers in agricultural establishments get a uniform increase of Php12 in their daily wage.

With these, the daily minimum wage of Bicol workers in non-agriculture establishments is placed at Php265 while those in non-agriculture establishments employing not more than 10 workers, cottage/handicraft and in agriculture establishments should receive Php248 per day.

The new rates apply to all minimum wage earners in the private sector, regardless of their position and irrespective of the methods by which their wages are paid.

Household or domestic helpers, persons employed in the personal service of another, including family drivers and workers in barangay micro business enterprises, are not covered by the new wage order.

Also exempted are retail/service establishments regularly employing not more than 10 workers, distressed establishments, new business enterprises and establishments adversely affected by calamities and human-induced disasters.

Issued by the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) and affirmed by DOLE’s National Wage Productivity Commission, the new wage order adjusts the minimum daily pays of workers after a series of public hearings and deliberations to enable workers to cope with the rising cost of commodities.

During the series of public hearings conducted by the RTWPB, the region’s labor sector insisted on a Php50 increase, saying that the cost of living has gone up due to soaring prices of basic commodities and services, including 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 currently stands at of Php245 per day.

The region’s private sector’s workers labor hard but the daily wage they receive makes it difficult for them to feed a family of five and send their children to school, according to the Alliance on Progressive Labor.

They suggested that the proposed Php50 hike would at least provide a breathing space as the extra money on top of the Php245 poverty threshold would augment their purchasing power.

The decided amount of increase, DOLE Regional Director Nathaniel Lacambra said, is aimed at balancing the needs of workers and the viability of business and industry.

In determining the new minimum wage, the RTWPB took into consideration the concept that the minimum wage is not just to restore the purchasing power of workers, but also to provide a safety net for vulnerable workers and afford equity, he explained.

Under this concept, the DOLE, according to Lacambra, is urging labor and employer groups to build the capacity of business enterprises to be competitive by developing and implementing productivity improvement and gain-sharing programs.

Bicol’s labor force was placed by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) as of last January at 3.9 million, representing the total population of individuals 15 years old and above.

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.

Although the region’s labor sector is not happy with the measly increase, its members said no option is left for them but accept what was granted to them by the new wage order. However, they want the DOLE to ensure compliance by employers with the new minimum wages.

Earlier, the DOLE regional office revealed that about 14 percent of Bicol employers did not comply with the prevailing minimum wage rate based on monitoring results despite the new online labor laws compliance system which automatically tracks down, rates and reports the output of compliance officers.

Lacambra said that complaints for non-compliance shall be filed with the DOLE regional office and shall be subject to the mandatory 30-day conciliation and mediation process under the single-entry approach (SEnA) reform measure.

The SEnA is an administrative approach to provide speedy, impartial, inexpensive and accessible settlement procedure for all issues/complaints arising from employer-employee relations to prevent them from ripening into full blown disputes.

Under this approach, all labor and employment disputes shall undergo a 30-day mandatory conciliation-mediation process to effect settlement among the contending parties.

The DOLE regional chief warned that any person, corporation, trust or firm, partnership, association or entity which refuses or fails to pay the prescribed wage rates in accordance with the wage order shall be penalized with a fine not exceeding Php25,000 and/or imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than two years.

The DOLE regional chief is urging workers who have grievances against their employers in connection with the wage order to visit the agency’s office nearest to them to formalize their complaints. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/cbd