[Island Times] Palau House Fixes Error, Passes Minimum Wage Bill
Pay increase applies equally to Palauan and foreign workers
By Aurea Gerundio-Dizon
KOROR, Palau (Island Times, April 19, 2013) – The House of Delegates on Tuesday passed on third and final reading the latest version of the minimum wage bill that clearly states that the raise shall apply not only to Palauan employees but also to non-citizens.
The minimum wage bill went to a conference committee after the Senate rejected the House version of the proposal.
Earlier reports showed that although the House agreed that the minimum wage hike shall apply to Palauan and non-Palauan employees, the bill submitted to the Senate still included “non-residential employees” as among those exempted from the minimum wage hike. The House failed to strike it out from the bill.
The conference committee, including Sen. Surangel Whipps Jr, Sen. Rukebai Inabo, Sen. Raynold Oilouch, Sen. Phillip Reklai, Sen. J. Uduch Senior, Del. Jonathan Isechal, Del. Lee Otobed, Del. Lentcer Basilius, Del. Masasinge Arurang, Del. Lucio Ngiraiwet, Del. Marino Ngemaes, Del. Sebastian Marino, Del. Marhence Madrangchar, Del. Noah Kemesong, Del. Gibson Kanai and Del. Yutaka Gibbons, met to amend the bill by striking out “non-residential employees” from the exempted individuals.
The conference version approved by the House states that the minimum wage shall be increased from $2.50 to $2.75 per hour effective October 1 this year. Every October 1 of each subsequent year, the minimum wage shall increase by $0.25 per hour until it reaches $3.50 per hour.
The bill states that minimum wage increase shall not apply to contracts in existence prior to October 1, 2013, but any contract made after that date must observe the applicable minimum wage in place.
Exempted from the minimum wage increase are the following: farmers by a single employer, domestic helpers, caretaker, babysitters or house boys, student employees and non-government organization employees, and employees 20 years old or younger and hired on a probationary basis for a period not to exceed 90 days.
The bill states that employers are no longer obligated to pay for employee’s travel, food, housing or other living expenses. An employer may take into account the provision of housing and food to the employee in calculating the wages paid to the employee by deducting reasonable cost of housing and food provided to the employee.
An employer who violates the Act shall be subject to civil penalty of $500 and a penalty equivalent of all unpaid taxes and social security contributions plus interest on the wages not paid to the employee for each violation.
An employee entitled of the increased minimum wage but does not receive it can sue the employer and if he or she prevails in a suit, he or she shall be entitled to recover reasonable attorney’s fees incurred in prosecuting the action.
The conference version passed the House with 13 yes and 0 no. Floor Leader Mario Gulibert, Del. Frank Kyota and Del. Lentcer Basilius were not present during the voting.
The bill has been submitted to the Senate for its approval. President Remengesau, in the press conference Wednesday at Palau Wave Radio station, expressed his support for the minimum wage bill.
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