“The term is an oxymoron but it is what best describes the situation of many government employees.” – Ferdinand Gaite, Courage
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Pearl (not her real name) has been working at the National Housing Authority as a contractual employee for 11 years now.
A senior computer operator at the NHA, Pearl said her contract used to be renewed every year but in recent years, it is renewed every six months. As a contractual employee, she does not receive any benefit enjoyed by regular government employees.
The 44-year-old employee is qualified for a permanent position. She finished a four-year course and passed the Civil Service examination. “I have always been hopeful I would get a regular position,” Pearl told Bulatlat.com. “I did not realize I have been waiting so long.” She requested anonymity for fear that going public might affect her employment.
Pearl is just one of the thousands of contractual workers in government. They are called different names – emergency hired (EH), job orders (JO), contract of services, or memorandum of agreement (MOA) workers.
Based on the Civil Service Commission 2010 inventory of government personnel, out of over 1.4 million personnel, 31,882 or 21.5 percent are contractual and 17,182 or 11.6 percent are coterminous.
On top of this, hundreds of thousands more were hired by the government under contracts of service and job orders. As of 2008, the latest data provided by CSC, a total of 281,586 employees were hired under these terms. The CSC defines contract of services as the engagement of the services of a person, private firm, non-governmental agency or international organization to undertake a specific work or job requiring special or technical skills not available in the agency to be accomplished within a specific period not exceeding one year. Job Orders, meanwhile, is the hiring of a worker for a piece of work or intermittent job for short duration not exceeding six months, and the pay is on a daily or hourly basis, according to CSC.
In practice, however, government workers hired under these terms have worked for years.
In a forum, July 22, Ferdinand Gaite, president of the Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage), asked the contractual employees how long they have been working in the government.
Pearl was one of them. Another woman raised her hand and said she has been with the NHA since 1991. She was initially hired as a casual employee then as a contractual. In 2013, she has been classified as a job-order employee. After 23 years of service, she is not considered a regular worker.
Gaite said the number of contractuals, JO, EH and MOA hired employees are certainly bigger today compared to the 2008 CSC data. He calls them “permanent contractuals.” “The term is an oxymoron but it is what best describes the situation of many government employees,” he said.
As of February 2013, out of the 1,325 NHA employees, 822 are emergency-hired workers, according to the Consolidated Employees Union (CUE)-NHA. Of this number, 48 percent have been working between at the NHA for more than a year.
In the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), of the 16,000 employees, 14,000 or 87.5 percent are MOA-hired.
Manny Baclagon, president of the Social Welfare Employees’ Association of the Philippines (Sweap), said MOA workers do not receive benefits such as the Social Security System, health insurance, 13th month pay, PAGibig (housing), among others.
Gaite told the forum participants, majority of whom are contractuals, “You are not qualified to be a member of either the SSS or GSIS [Government Service Insurance System]. Where do you belong? This is insulting. JO, EH, contractuals, MOA perform the functions of regular workers, with the same workload and yet you are deprived of benefits.”
The SSS is for workers in the private sector while the GSIS is for government employees. Most of the contractuals in government have no employee-employer relationship.
Baclagon said DSWD’s MOA workers merely receive a travel allowance amounting to P2,000. The amount, he said, is a pittance especially for those working in the field.
Baclagon lamented that his colleagues at the DSWD do not have any kind of protection. He said that two DSWD employees under MOA met an accident during typhoon Yolanda. The employees were on their way to deliver relief goods when the military helicopter they boarded malfunctioned. They were seriously wounded but never got any support from the agency.
Baclagon said another DSWD MOA worker was assigned to Samar before Yolanda struck. He left his family in Tacloban. His mother and a sister died during the supertyphoon. When he came back to Tacloban, the employee was summoned to the office immediately so he was not able to recover the bodies of his loved ones.
Baclagon said when Sweap demanded that MOA workers receive cash incentives during Christmas season, a 20-percent withholding tax was deducted from the cash incentive.
“It is ironic that the DSWD personnel who are in the frontline serving the poorest of our people are the ones deprived of care and denied of their basic rights,” Gaite said.
Right to full employment
Gaite said contractualization violates the right of government employees to full employment, a right enshrined in the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
Gaite said contractualization also attacks the right of government workers to a living wage, right to form and join unions, right to benefits, right to security of tenure, among others.
The Courage leader said contractualization is in line with the government’s neoliberal policy of reducing the bureaucracy and passing on the provision of services to the private sector.
Gaite called on his fellow government workers to unite and demand for an end to contractualization.
Like other government employees, Pearl remains hopeful that her labor rights would soon be recognized. After 11 years, she said, her papers are now being processed so she could get a regular position.