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Banana industry: Exemption from increase in minimum wage sought

The banana industry is asking the government to help ailing industries by allowing them to avail of exemptions from wage increases.

In a press statement released Wednesday, Stephen A. Antig, Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association executive director, said that the government must consider the plight of ailing industries because they are also reeling from the impact of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) as well facing huge problems.

“To cushion the impact of TRAIN and production woes, the Government should have established mechanisms for ailing industries to apply for exemption during wage increase,” said Antig as he pointed out that his group has received an information that the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) is implementing a daily minimum wage increase of P56.43 next week.

Based on the information from the regional office of the Department of Labor and Employment, the RTWPB has yet to come up with a new wage order.

Antig said any plan to impose an increase in the wage order is unreasonable as “the move is not well thought of considering that the banana industry itself has also been affected by TRAIN.”
He added that the consultations on the plan to adjust the minimum were not thorough as he urged the RTWPB to hold more of these meetings.

“The banana industry has been experiencing market and production problems, which makes the adoption of a new wage order anti-productive and threatening,” he said, adding that among the problems that the industry is facing is the sanctions that the American government has implemented on Iran, a large market of the Philippine bananas in the Middle East.

He said that the industry, which has been heavily regulated and is paying very high taxes, may face a daunting task of absorbing a new challenge which may result in retrenchment of workers.
“There should be timing in instituting the proposed new round of wage increase,” he added, “especially a time when issues like inflation, higher tax matrix, devaluation, and permanent job placements are brought into the equation,” he added.

He said the board must find a middle ground and that hastily implementing a new wage increase without thorough consultations “untenable and inconsistent with the policy of creating permanent jobs.”

“Specifically the Cavendish banana industry, based on figures from the Philippine Statistical Authority (PSA), employs the highest number of workers in the agricultural sector,” he added.

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