Several Guamanians speak out against Bill 316 - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Several Guamanians speak out against Bill 316

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - Following a lengthy public hearing last week that went past midnight, a second round of hearings was held this afternoon on Bill 316. It's doing more than just proposing to raise the minimum wage.

Bill 316 wouldn't just raise the minimum wage, it's also raising concern from the island community.

During the second round of hearings at the Guam Legislature, 77-year-old Asan resident Armando Dominguez spoke on the impact the first minimum wage increase several years ago had on he and his co-workers while working at one of the island's hotels. He says on the surface, the proposal sounds good. "But to them, their benefit were cut short, instead of working for five years to have some benefit, they have to work for 10 years and then their overtime and to my regret, some of them were dismissed," he said.

Also speaking out against Bill 316 was multi-million dollar developer Al Ysrael. The former senator says the measure is basically a law of politics telling lawmakers raising the minimum wage will come at a cost. "A $2.85 increase per hour that's a fortune, a lot of money what no one is telling them is that the Government of Guam is going to take one-third of it as taxes," he said.

He adds after taxes, the net into the pocket of the wage earner will actually be less, about $1.92, than what's actually proposed. Ysrael says for businesses, they would incur more costs above the proposed $2.85 increase over the next three years. For Mark Baldyga, he appreciates the spirit of Bill 316, saying, "However as both a businessman and the chairman of GVB, I must oppose Bill 316 because despite it's good intentions this bill will cause layoffs of minimum wage earns and will directly harm the very people it intends to help."

The Guam Visitors Bureau chairman and Baldyga Group president further called the measure an "equal opportunity destructor" that would "wreak havoc on businesses and minimum wage earners." In the past three years he's seen his company expand to nine companies employing 300 employees. However, had a bill like this passed before then, he believes he couldn't have started any of those companies. "All along hotel row, our service will go down as our prices go up, I can guarantee you that it is absolutely the most absurd way of thinking to imagine that raising the minimum wage resulting in lower service and higher cost will somehow help or grow our tourism based economy, it's just silly," he said.

Baldyga says jobs would be cut, cultural practitioners would be impacted and service levels would fall- many of these findings were revealed from an informal survey GVB conducted with its membership last week. Among the findings, 674 jobs would be lost as a result of Bill 316 just based on a third of GVB's membership.

GVB general manager Karl Pangelinan said, "In this current environment, it is not the time to raise costs, which will lead to higher prices and a decline in our visitor industry."

And while GVB represented one of the larger organizations, even small businesses came out against the measure. Ocean Jet Club president Mima Iwana expressed her frustration, saying, "I can't sleep just thinking about this Bill 316." She told lawmakers that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 could lead some to believe that entry level earning is simply enough. For her, Bill 316 would hit her business hard.

"We cannot increase the retail the price, so if this bill passes, what will happen? The bottom will suffer, our net profit will suffer, when net profit suffer what's going to happen, we will lose the budget to training people, we will lose the safety number one issue and we will also lose providing a quality facility and equipment," she said.

It was last week when Guam Women's Chamber of Commerce and Bank of Guam president Lou Leon Guerrero expressed her support of the measure. The Guam Chamber of Commerce along with the Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association however joined those who had concerns firmly opposing the measure.

You still have time to testify as a second public hearing, the third overall, is scheduled for this evening. You can also submit written testimony to Senator Rory Respicio's Committee on Labor.
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