Sugar industry: Cebu towns fail to implement minimum wage

08/09/2010 - CEBU, Philippines – Could you believe that some farm workers in northern Cebu are paid only P50 in exchange for their eight hours of work per day?

The Freeman learned that many, if not all, of the sugar planters in Bogo City and in some nearby towns are not paying their workers the exact amount of salary based on the minimum wage law.

The wage order issued by the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) 7 in June 16, 2008 had set the minimum wage for workers in sugar plantations in Cebu at P217 a day.

Those workers in non-agricultural sectors in the Cities of Cebu, Carcar, Danao, Lapulapu, Mandaue, Naga, Talisay, and the Municipalities of Consolacion, Cordova, Liloan, Minglanilla, and San Fernando are entitled P267.

However, workers in non-agricultural sectors in Bogo City, Toledo City and the rest of the municipalities in the province, except in the towns of Bantayan, are only entitled P247 and P237 for those in Bohol and Negros Oriental.

"Sus paita g'yud namo, maayo na lang unta ug P100 ang adlaw, pero kutob ra g'yud tawon sa P50 ang ilang isuhol namo," said a woman from Barangay Calambua, San Remigio.

The Freeman talked to some passengers of buses from the northern Cebu towns and all of them confirmed that the sugar planters in their place pay their workers with an amount below the minimum wage.

Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) 7 Regional Director Elias Cayanong said the concerned workers should complain against their employers for non-payment of the minimum wage.

But Bernabe Arcillas of Barangay Anonang Norte in Bogo City explained, "Walay magpakaisog-isog ug reklamo kay dili na hinoon sila patrabahoon, mosamot nga wala na sila'y kita." (No one would be brave enough to complain as they will surely lose their source of income.)

Arcillas had stopped working at a sugar farm in Bogo City to work for a bakery in Cebu City. According to him, he was already fed up of the abuses of their employers.

"Paita g'yud tawon mokita ka ra ug P300 ang semana kon adto ka motrabaho sa hacienda unya wala pay libre nga kaon," Arcillas said. (Life is hard there, we only get P300 a week and we don't get free meals.)

They augmented their family's income by letting their wives and children work, for the same amount per day.

Both husband and wife would get a total income of P100 a day, which they could use to buy only two kilos of cheap rice and a few dried fish for their viand.

The RTWPB 7 headed by Cayanong is again expected to issue another wage order within this week, increasing the amount of the minimum wage from P15 to P20 a day.

But for the farm workers in northern Cebu, a new wage order, if not strictly enforced, will not make any difference in their lives. (THE FREEMAN)

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