OFWs in South Korea looking at possible wage hike

South Korea's wage council has approved a 7.1-percent minimum wage increase that will be implemented next year and is expected to benefit over 35,000 Filipino workers once the Korean Minister of Employment and Labor approves it.

According to Philippine Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, workers under the Employment Permit System (EPS) will receive 5,580 Korean won (US$5.5) starting next year, higher than the 2014 minimum wage of 5,210 Korean won per hour (US$5.14).

“The minimum wage increase is set to apply from 1 January 2015 to 31 December 2015,” Baldoz said in a statement Tuesday.

EPS is the scheme adopted by the Korean government to introduce non-professional foreign workers in its small and medium industries under a transparent and efficient process of selecting, sending, and receiving foreign workers through a government-to-government arrangement.

The Philippines is one of the original six countries that signed a memorandum of agreement with South Korea’s Ministry of Employment and Labor regarding the EPS.

The minimum wage increase was reported to Baldoz by Seoul-based Labor Attaché Felicitas Bay, after it was passed by Chairman Park Jun-sung during the 7th Plenary Session of the Minimum Wage Council.

“The voting was participated in by 27 councilors, with nine councilors with public interest and nine worker councilors voting in favor. Only nine councilors abstained,” Bay said in her report.

She said the wage hike was determined based on average wage hikes by collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) and income distribution improvement rates, which indicate the wage level of workers in the same category.

The increase, which translates to a monthly salary of 1,166,220 won (US$1,150.18) for people working 40 hours a week, or 209 hours a month, including paid weekly holidays, covers all workers as defined by the Labor Standards Act.

Foreign workers, including those working under the EPS, are also covered by the wage increase.

Those who are not covered by the salary adjustment are those working in their family business and living in the same residence, domestic workers, seafarers governed by the Seafarers Act, and those whose ability to work is apparently low due to physical or mental disabilities, as long as their exclusion from coverage is permitted by their Minister of Employment and Labor.

Bay noted that the Council has yet to submit the minimum wage proposal to the Minister of Employment and Labor for public announcement and to give workers’ and employers’ representatives at least 10 days to raise their objection.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration reported that as of the first quarter of 2014, a total of 319 newly hired OFWs have been deployed to South Korea. Of the number, 307 were skilled workers and 12 were domestic helpers.

As of March 31, 2014, the number of Filipino workers who have been deployed to Korea is at 35,936, POEA records show. —KBK, GMA News


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