Labor hits opposition to P341.75 wage hike

WAGE BOARD PUBLIC HEARING—Sec. Grace Carreon (standing) enumerates the grounds cited by the Cebu Labor Coalition (CELAC) in filing the petition for a P341.75 across-the-board minimum wage adjustment in Central Visayas during the Wage Public Hearing last Sept. 17, at Bethel Guest House, Dumaguete City. Photo also shows (l-r) DTI-7 Director Asteria Caberte, DOLE-7 Director Salome Siaton, NEDA-7 Director Efren Carreon, Management Representative to the Board Philip Tan, and Labor Representative to the Board Jose Tomongha. (PIA7-NegOr foto)

DUMAGUETE CITY (PNA) —The business sector largely represented by the  Negros Oriental Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NOCCI) has opposed the wage hike petition filed by the labor sector  in the province, saying that wage hikes are counterproductive because there is no guarantee that if you increase wages, there is a corresponding proportionate increase in productivity.

This opposition in  the labor sector  claim they have been advocating for a better way of living in the midst of high and soaring prices of goods and high cost of education. The labor groups directed their opposition to NOCCI headed by Ed Du.

The Nocci businessmen, however, do not speak for the   ‘Filipino-Chinese Chamber which is also another big sector of the business industry.   The Bizmen said, “For us, in the business and management sector, wage hikes are counterproductive as (they are) not going to really translate to lower costs.”

However, the labor sector criticized the NOCCI saying that they were not even consulted  by them as to their petition hoping that they can reach a compromise.  They also called upon government internal revenue and social security system and see how much these businessmen are complying with their tax obligations rather than reject outright the labor sectors’ plight.

Here’s what the businessmen had to say:

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) for Negros Oriental has remained the same and inflation rate has gone down from 3.1 percent, except for certain months in 2018 when there was a slight increase due to the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law that eventually went back to normal, Du said.

As to the pump prices of gasoline and diesel in Negros Oriental, surveys conducted among gasoline stations showed no major disruption or increase in prices and that electricity, water and transportation rates have remained the same for the past two to three years while prices of fish and meat products have been stable.

Aside from these factors, NOCCI maintains 99.9 percent of the businesses in the province are micro and small ones, unlike in Cebu, Bacolod, and Iloilo.

Although Negros Oriental hosts geothermal power plants, the province still pays one of the highest electricity rates in the region because of the one-grid one rate system.

POOR PORT FACILITIES

Aside from the high power cost which are also passed on to the consumers, the biz-men say they also have to shoulder expensive logistics because goods have to be shipped through land travel from Cebu because small port facilities in the province cannot accommodate huge volume of cargo.

This was bared during the public hearing conducted by the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) 7.

Business sector blamed the government saying that as an agricultural province, the chamber’s position has always been that the government should focus its efforts on inclusive growth rather than annual wage hikes and to create more jobs, conduct more skills training, and hopefully increase productivity especially in the agri-marine sector. This was intimated by Ed Du who heads the chamber despite the disagreement of some of its members.

The RTWPB-7 has been deliberating over a petition for a PHP341.75 across-the-board increase and the first public hearing was conducted in Negros Oriental.

Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) 7 Director Salome Siaton said more than a year has passed since Wage Order 21 took effect and this would be the right time to review it.

The review has become more imperative because of the filing of a wage hike petition by the Cebu Labor Coalition (CELAC).

SIQUIJOR OPPOSES

During the public hearing, those opposed to the petition included the Siquijor Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) represented by April Rose Camallari   who  said one year was too short for the business sector in Siquior to cope with the wage hike.

She said the PHP323 minimum wage in Siquijor province is already too high for the private sector because the Siquijor local government is only giving a salary of PHP282 per day.

The SCCI position paper further said that although Siquijor province’s main economic driver is tourism, it is understandably seasonal, making the business sector’s income irregular and unreliable.

The cost of commodities is also very high because they are all transported from the other provinces by sea.

Power, on the other hand, is insufficient and frequent brownouts are a norm, such that generators are needed, adding to the already high power rate, which is the second highest in the country.

Moreover, water supply is unreliable, making overhead expenses higher in Siquijor than in the other provinces in the region. (CRG/PNA)