State workers to take to the streets too

Published by rudy Date posted on September 28, 2011

LAST week, students, teachers and nonacademic personnel of state universities and colleges demonstrated against what they saw as sharp cuts in SUC allocations in the proposed government budget for 2012.

The week before that, transport workers protested spiraling fuel prices and demanded the repeal of the Downstream Oil Industry Deregulation Act of 1998, which they said has failed to break up the local oil oligopoly and has not brought relief to fuel consumers.

This week, government employees are set to resort to the civil-service equivalent of industrial action to demand what they call a “substantial wage hike.”

Government employees, public school teachers and public health workers have formed a so-called Wage Fight Alliance. They have declared today, September 28, as their National Day of Action for Wages and Benefits.

Speaking at the Saturday Forum at Annabel’s, alliance leader Ferdinand Gaite said: “President B. S. Aquino 3rd has done absolutely nothing to improve the lot of the country’s 1.3 million government employees who are now living on the brink of poverty and destitution.”

Gaite, who also heads a leftist union of government workers called Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage), said: “It is now time for government employees to unite and show this administration that we are intensifying our campaign for a P6,000 increase in the minimum pay of all state workers, especially amid the skyrocketing prices of oil, basic commodities and services.”

While Malacañang continues to stonewall the demand of government unions for higher pay, Gaite said that underpaid government workers have found sympathizers in both chambers of Congress.

In the Senate, a bill has been filed seeking to grant a P6,000 increase in the minimum pay of employees working in both national and local government, in government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) or government financial institutions (GFIs), in state universities and colleges, or other state agencies.

The author of Senate Bill 2928, Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. has said the government needs to address the financial dilemma of government employees by increasing their meager salaries.

Revilla has said that despite the passage of the Salary Standardization Law 3 (SSL3), salaries paid to state workers are very much less than the government’s own conservative estimate of the cost of living an average-size Filipino family needs in order to survive.

“An employee with the compensation of Salary Grade I Step 1 currently receives P6,861 per month which is far from the government’s estimated cost of living of P29,130 per month,” Revilla has said.

The Salary Standardization Law was designed to correct wide disparities in pay scales among various state agencies. Its third stage, SSL 3, was proposed and enacted in 2008 during the administration of then-President Gloria M. Arroyo.

SSL 3 was designed to be implemented over four years and aims to raise public sector pay from about 40 to 138 percent, depending on pay grade. Last May, on the occasion of Labor Day, Mr. Aquino directed the accelerated implementation of SSL 3, causing the minimum pay of government workers to rise to about P9,000 a month.

At the Saturday Forum, Gaite said the problem with SSL3 is that it gives the biggest pay raises to civil servants who are already in the highest salary grades, from salary grade 25 to 33.

“For instance, the President, who is in the highest salary grade, would see his pay rise to about P125,000 a month when SSL is fully implemented,” Gaite explained. “In comparison, government employees in the lower salary grades of 1 to 24 would get much, much less in terms pay adjustment.”

Even if they are granted a P6,000 pay increase, government workers still do not expect to get what the Constitution stipulates as “living wages” for workers. “Nonetheless, that pay hike would somehow be seen as an ‘equalizer’ for civil servants in the lower salary grades,” Gaite said.

He said that the September 28 protest action of the Wage Fight Alliance “also serves to gather additional support for our escalating campaign for a legislated wage hike.

Apart from Revilla’s SB 2928, Gaite said that Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano has sponsored House Bill 3726, which “already has garnered the support” of Representatives Lani Mercado of Cavite, Trisha Bonoan-David of Manila, Sandy Ocampo of Manila, Winnie Castelo of Quezon City, Angelo Palmones of the Agham Party and the Cibac Party.

The Wage Fight Alliance also slammed a proposed P1,000 increase in the yearly clothing allowance of government employees.

“Since the year 2000, our annual clothing allowance has been pegged at a measly P4,000,” said alliance spokeswoman Mau Aguilar. “Considering the rate of inflation these past 11 years, the amount of P4,000 has long been insufficient to cover our needs.”

She said many state workers have had to resort to scrounging for used clothes in ukay-ukay stores or even taking out personal loans just to comply with government uniform regulations.

“A mere P1,000 increase in our clothing allowance is an insult,” she said, “especially when you consider the P101.5 billion pork barrel that has been allocated for Aquino in the 2012 budget. The huge discrepancy is indicative of this administration’s callousness and insensitivity of the needs of government workers and the entire labor sector.” –DAN MARIANO, Manila Standard Today

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