“We have been told that an increase in the pay of government employees is not possible because of lack of budget. But given the pork barrel scam that implicated many legislators, that may be hard to believe now.” – Courage
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Fernando Hicap filed on Thursday, Sept. 26, House Bill 3015, which, if enacted, would provide a P6,000 ($138) salary increase for rank and file government workers.
“The minimum pay reflects the dismal state of public sector workers. While executives and top officials of the government have been enjoying various perks and privileges corollary to their power oftentimes even unconscionable, the employees who are at the frontline of delivering services to the public have been living in abject poverty,” the explanatory note of House Bill 3015 read.
The bill, titled “P6,000 Increase in the Minimum Pay of Government Employees Act of 2013,” was co-authored by Bayan Muna Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate, Gabriela Women’s Party Reps. Luzviminda Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus, ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio and Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon.
Ferdinand Gaite, national president of government employees union Courage, told Bulatlat.com that Aquino’s seeming lack of interest to promote decent living conditions for government employees will not deter them from being optimistic on the passing of House Bill 3015.
Gaite, along with government union leaders, joined the Makabayan bloc during the filing of the bill.
Performance based bonus, not enough
Gaite said this is the second time that a bill demanding for a $138 increase in the salary of rank and file government workers. The first, he said, was filed in the 15th Congress but only reached first reading. Its counterpart in the senate, on the other hand, also suffered the same fate.
“The senate bill was not even discussed in the Committee of Civil Service or Appropriations. Increasing government workers’ pay is clearly not their priority. They pushed for the Performance-based bonus instead,” Gaite said.
Government employees have already expressed their reservations on the performance-based bonus calling it as “top up bonus.” Under this scheme, those who ranked best, better and good performance in the top three government agencies will be given an incentive, which Courage estimated, will benefit only about ten percent of government employees.
Courage said the system would promote “patronage and spoils,” which is “deeply rooted in the bureaucracy” as “only those employees who are closely associated with the current administration or who kowtows to the government’s policies will receive ‘very satisfactory’ ratings.”
“It negates the purpose of giving government workers better pay. Employees cannot perform because they do not have sufficient salary for their fare. Sometimes they are forced to be absent or arrive in their office late. They bear the brunt of finding the means to earn to augment their meager income,” Gaite said.
“Their salary is hardly enough to bring them to and from the office,” he added.
Gaite said implementation of the Salary Standardization Law 3, on the other hand, was not able to provide government employees the much-needed relief from their poor economic conditions.
“The passage of the Salary Standardization Law 3 has not been enough to substantially address the situation. An employee with a Salary Grade 1 Step 1 (minimum pay) currently receives P9,000 ($208) while the government’s cost of living stands at almost P30,000 ($692) a month,” the explanatory note of House Bill 3015 read.
Courage also received reports from government employees’ unions that many municipalities have not yet given their employees their first tranche of salary increase as prescribed in the law.
“That should merit an investigation from the House of Representatives. We have a law that is not being implemented to the detriment of the welfare of government employees,” Gaite said.
Pork barrel issue
“We have been told that an increase in the pay of government employees is not possible because of lack of budget. But given the pork barrel scam that implicated many legislators, that may be hard to believe now,” Gaite said.
Courage estimated that the government would spend $1.61 billion to provide minimum wage earners the $138 increase. “That is a far cry from President Aquino’s P1.3 trillion ($30 billion) pork barrel,” he said.