Thousands of workers of the private sector in the City of Tagbilaran will have to await the fate of the approved P28 minimum wage increase as Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 48 Presiding Judge Jorge D. Cabalit granted petitioners and respondents three days to present their respective “expert witnesses.”
Petitioners, Bohol Island of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (BICI) represented by Reginald Ong and Engr. Allen Christian G. Varquez on behalf of the Bohol Association of Hotels, Resorts and Restaurants, Inc. (BAHRR) assisted by Marapao sibling counsels Lord “Popot” 1V and Lord “Cotcot” V will present its witnesses on January 29, February 5 and March 5, 2020.
Respondents, Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) VII, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) VII Regional Office and Bohol Field Office assisted by counsel Atty. Evita G.Mendoza-Balane will also bolster their arguments on March 15, 18 and 25, 2020.
Petitioners secured a status quo order to stop a mandated minimum wage hike of P28 or P366 for Tagbilaran City private workers which would have taken effect on January 5, 2020.
Petitioners stressed that its opposition was on the geographical classification of Tagbilaran City from class C to class B under Wage Order ROVII-22 and not on the increase of the daily minimum wage from P338 to P366 or an adjustment of P28.
Documents obtained by the Chronicle showed that in Wage Order (WO) No. 19 issued on September 15, 2015, class C included cities and municipalities in Bohol and Negros Oriental Province with a basic wage of P310.00.
WO No. 20 on February 13, 2017, class C comprised all cities and municipalities in Bohol and Negros Oriental Provinces with a basic wage of P323.00.
WO No. 21 that took effect on June 18, 2018, classified cities and municipalities in Bohol and Negros Oriental Provinces under geographical area class C with a basic wage of P338.00.
However, WO No. 22 stated that “in consideration of the recommendations of stakeholders during the public hearing for the Board to review the geographic classification of wages, the simplification of the existing geographic wage classification from four (class A, B, C, D) to three categories (class A, B, C).”
During the hearing for prohibition with a preliminary injunction, permanent injunction and application for a temporary restraining order on January 8, 2020 before RTC Branch 48, the three witnesses for the petitioners were one in saying that there was no discussion whatsoever on the reclassification of Tagbilaran City from class C to B.
A public hearing was held in Tagbilaran City on October 11, 2019, conducted by the RTWPB to gather inputs and review existing socio-economic conditions for a proposed new minimum wage order in Region VII.
Marietta S. Gasatan, Real Estate Officer and Public Relations Officer of the Alturas Group of Companies told the court that under Wage Order No. ROVII-22, the “criteria and standards for wage-fixing under Republic Act (RA) 6727 were disregarded or not followed by the RTWPB.”
Gasatan feared that the reclassification and sudden leap in the daily wage of workers in Tagbilaran City might prove detrimental to its investment promotion efforts to position itself as a Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) or call center destination even as the closure of the Tagbilaran City airport has cast adverse effects on the economy of the city.
Jocelyn Calvis, Head Auditor of Bohol Quality Corporation, secretary of the
Bohol Quality United Workers Association and auditor of the Tripartite Industrial Peace Council (TIPC) expressed her surprise over the reclassification of Tagbilaran City as class B under Wage Order No. ROVII-22 while under Wage Order No. 21 the city was under class C.
Roy E. Bayonas, sole proprietor of Printbit Printing Shop in Tagbilaran City also testified that with the minimum wage increase of P28 “I will be constrained to lay off at least 6 employees to stay afloat. I might close my printing shop.”
Printbit Printing Shop employs 23 employees and has slashed by 20% its’ services to survive with space rental to increase by 10% this year and a prevailing 20% rise in the prices of raw materials since last year.
With the last hearing still three months away, the clash between local employers and the RTWPB over how much is a day’s work worth based on geographical area, “it is necessary to understand that every minimum wage law is about more than just money,” according to freelance writer Peter C. Baker. (Chito M. Visarra)