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Plantation workers entitled to minimum wage, CA says

“Pakyaw” or wholesale workers in plantations are entitled to the minimum wage in their areas of work, the Court of Appeals said in a decision involving seven sugarcane workers dismissed by an hacienda.

COURT DENIES MOTION

In a resolution dated May 11, 2021, the appellate court denied for lack of merit a motion for reconsideration filed by Hacienda Amy/Elena Montinola of the labor case initiated by seven laborers hired to work as “karga-tapas”, or cutters-loaders, in sugarcane plantations.

“Indeed, even if they are ‘pakyaw’ workers, they are still considered as regular employees who, under the law, should be receiving a salary in accordance with the minimum wage rate in effect at the time of their employment,” the decision read.

“Here, considering that private respondents were underpaid, the National Labor Relations Commission in determining the wage differentials due to each employee made reference to Wage Order Nos. RBV-18, RBV-20 and RBVI-21, that were implemented at the place where private respondents were employed and at the time of their employment,” the court added.

CA DECISION

The hacienda owner appealed a July 2019 decision by the CA, which upheld the NLRC’s 2016 decision that directed the payment of unpaid wage differentials and attorney’s fees of P201,478 to the seven workers.

Edwin Blacquio, Anecito Dedullo, Vicente Huelar, Edmar Blacquio, Edison Blacquio, Dennis Dedullo, and Allan Ancajas work for the petitioner 7 a.m. to noontime in October to May every year, as they also work for other small planters in Cadiz City and Victorias City, during milling season.

“We are not convinced to reverse our prior ruling. This court, in the assailed decision, had already extensively explained the propriety of the award of money claims to the private respondents. To reiterate the ratio decidendi (rationale for the decision) would be to belabor the issues endlessly,” the tribunal said.

The case started in October 2014 when the seven left the hacienda and worked for neighboring plantations operated by various small planters and brought with them cane cutting blades (espading) owned by petitioner.

When the sugarcanes of petitioner’s hacienda were ripe for harvest in the last week of October, the workers were asked to return but they refused, saying they were indebted to the small planters they worked for.

The petitioner then demanded the return of their “espading” but said if they return to work, the tools will be lent to them.

‘PAKYAW’ SOUGHT

The workers negotiated with the plantation owner that in lieu of P100 per day without any other benefits, they should be paid on “pakyaw” basis.

However, the petitioner, who said the hacienda cannot afford the rate they are asking for, ordered the return of the tools and told the workers never to report for work again.

Not having been admitted to work since then, respondents decided to file the labor case, alleging they received salaries below the minimum wage prescribed by law and without benefits, wage differentials, and 13th month pay.*PNA

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