CONGRESS has approved the creation of a technical working group that would consolidate two measures to protect minimum wage earners in the private sector by raising the fine imposed on employers violating the prescribed minimum wages.
The committee on labor and employment, headed by Cagayan Rep. Randolph Ting, will consolidate House Bill Nos. 5018 and 356 authored by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Diwa Rep. Emmeline Aglipay Villar, to ensure the employees's rights to their wages.
Alvarez's bill seeks to amend Presidential Decree 442 as amended, otherwise known as the Labor Code of the Philippines, while Villar’s bill seeks to amend Section 12 of Republic Act 6727, otherwise known as the Wage Rationalization Act, as amended.
During a recent hearing, Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso and Baguio City Rep. Mark Go called on appropriate government agencies to monitor and enforce strict compliance by employers of labor laws, including the minimum wage law.
In response, National Labor Relations Commission Commissioner Isabel Ortiguerra assured the lawmakers the agency has been monitoring the employers’ compliance with judgments or decisions on cases about payment of correct wages.
Ortiguerra said the NLRC is holding reconciliation and mediation conferences to resolve labor and management disputes.
According to Deputy Executive Director Patricia Hornilla of the National Wages and Productivity Commission, their agency has inadequate manpower to fully monitor employers’ compliance with the minimum wage law.
He said that the NWPC’s labor laws compliance officers could only inspect 15 percent of the total 937,554 establishments nationwide annually.
Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin said that despite not being paid the right minimum wage, there are workers who do not lodge complaints against their employers for fear of losing their jobs.
Alvarez filed HB 5018, saying the current penalties are not strong enough to completely stop the unjust and unreasonable conditions being suffered by labor workers.
“This bill seeks to increase the penalties so as to impose stricter guidelines for the employers. In doing so, this could serve as a deterrent to the non-compliance of payment of prescribed minimum wage rates by unjust employers,” he said.
Apart from wages, basic entitlements of employees also include, among others, the right to receive wage-related benefits through coverage under the Social Security System, Philippine Health Insurance Corp. and the Home Development Mutual Fund or Pag-IBIG Fund.
The Speaker’s HB 5018 seeks to amend Presidential Decree 442 to include a new Article 97-A titled “Social Security and Welfare Benefits,” providing that “Upon employment, every new employee shall be covered by the SSS, PhilHealth, Pag-IBIG, and other social security and welfare benefits. Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, all premium payments or contributions for such benefits of minimum of wage earners shall be shouldered by the employer.”
On the other hand, Villar’s HB 356 seeks to amend Section 12 of RA 6727, or the Wage Rationalization Act, as amended by RA 8188.
The amendment provides that “any person, corporation, trust, firm, partnership, association or entity which refuses or fails to pay any of the prescribed increases or adjustments in the wage rates made in accordance with this Act shall be punished by a fine of at least P50,000 but not more than P300,000, plus moral damages or at least P50,000 for each affected worker and the costs of litigation, including attorney' s fees, and or imprisonment of not less than two years nor more than four years or both such fine and imprisonment at the discretion of the court. Any person convicted under this Act shall not be entitled to the benefits provided for under the Probation Law.”