“It is clear that when it comes to basic pay, government employees in the lowest up to the middle-level positions are disadvantaged while those occupying higher positions are greatly favored under the proposed SSL 2015 of President Aquino.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Outraged that top government officials will get millions of pesos in pay hikes while the rest will only get pennies, public school teachers trooped to Congress on Monday, Nov. 23, to protest the third reading of the proposed Salary Standardization Law (SSL) 2015 or House Bill 6268.
The teachers led by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) are strongly against the SSL, which they said is mere “alms,” compared to their demands: P25,000 ($530) salary increase for teachers and nurses and P16,000 ($339) for non-teaching personnel.
Melinda Lim, 27, a public school teacher in Putatan Elementary School in Muntinlupa City said they are against the SSL 2015 because it disregards those who are in the forefront, such as teachers and rank-and-file government employees.
“Our increase is only 11.89 percent (P2,205 or $47) and it will be given in four tranches. Meanwhile, the President’s salary will increase two-fold. That is unfair. I thought we were his bosses? But it seems it is the opposite,” Lim told Bulatlat.com in an interview.
If the proposed SSL2015 is approved, the P2,205 will be released in installment for four years, or P551 ($12) every year. Lim said the increase would only be eaten up by income tax. “Barya lang talaga yun,” she said.
Lim added that her take home pay is P16,000 ($339) less taxes and government mandated benefits. She also spends her salary for the needs of her students. “Sometimes when I am in the grocery, I buy extra for my students because many of them have no snacks in school. Add to that the supplies, notebooks, visual aids and markers,” she said.
The independent thinktank group Ibon Foundation said the proposed SSL of 2015 increases the basic pay of all 33 salary grades in government, but does in a “very inequitable way.”
It said the three highest salary grades covering the president, vice president, cabinet secretaries, senators, congressmen and justices will see increases of from 186 to 223 percent in their basic pay, or by P167,809 ($3,555) to P268,096 ($5,680).
“This is triple or more of their current basic pay from P3.4 to 5.1 million ($108,060) annually,” Ibon said.
Rank-and-file police, soldiers, and other uniformed personnel will be granted an increase of only 12.26 percent (entry-level), from P14,834 or $314 to P16,597 ($351).
Congress failed to approve the SSL of 2015 during Monday’s plenary hearing due to a lack of quorum.
ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. Antonio L. Tinio urged Congress to reconsider its second reading approval of the SSL 2015 and amend it instead for the benefit of the majority of the government employees.
“The House approved SSL 2015 without changing even slightly the paltry hikes proposed by Malacañang for the vast majority of those working in government. After three years of not having salary increases, hundreds of thousands of rank-and-file government employees are furious that Congress gave its stamp of approval to this highly unjust bill,” said Tinio.
Tinio said they recognize that SSL 2015 will indeed grant a substantial increase in the total compensation because, on top of a relatively small salary increase for low and middle income earners, other compensation in the form of the 14th month pay and an Enhanced Performance Based Bonus (PBB) will be given.
“But the resounding demand of majority of our government employees is for substantial increases in their monthly salaries,” said Tinio.
Tinio explained that bonuses, though tax-exempt, have no bearing on retirement and other social security benefits. He also said that the PBB bragged about by government is a one-time bonus and is not guaranteed to all employees, but only to those who perform according to standards set by an inter-agency group led by DBM, and at unequal rates. He also added that the PBB is widely opposed by government employees as “an oppressive and divisive incentive scheme intended to appease their demand for salary increases.”
“It is clear that when it comes to basic pay, government employees in the lowest up to the middle-level positions are disadvantaged while those occupying higher positions are greatly favored under the proposed SSL 2015 of President Aquino,” stressed Tinio.
Tinio urged the Lower House to increase the proposed new salaries, with the necessary funds to be taken from the amounts set for the Enhanced PBB. Higher basic pay, said Tinio, will better benefit the people in terms of everyday finances and retirement unlike additional bonuses.
With only less than a year left for Aquino, Lim said he should give what is due to the teachers and the rest of the government employees.
“If this government is really treading the righteous path, then it should do what is right,” she said.
She added that the proposed SSL could be enough for the new teachers or those who do not have a family to support. But for those who are in the profession for decades, the proposed SSL is indeed unfair.