More than half a million government employees are non-regulars who are classified under different names, such as emergency-hired, memorandum-of-agreement (MOA) workers, job-order employees.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – No work, no pay. No security of tenure. No benefits.
For 10 years now, Juliet Baider, 33, has been enduring all of these as an “emergency-hired” employee of the National Housing Authority (NHA).
By all standards, Baider is qualified to be a regular government employee. Aside from having 10 years of service, she passed the civil service examination. She also finished a degree in financial management accounting.
“Ano pa ba ang kulang?” Baider retorted, holding her eight-year-old daughter in her arms. The mother and daughter joined the symbolic protest of NHA employees against contractualization, Sept. 28.
More than 50 percent of the 2,400 NHA employees are non-regular, mostly working on short-term but continuous project-based contracts. Baider has been hired for three projects.
According to the Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage), more than half a million government employees are non-regulars. They are called different names – emergency hired, memorandum of agreement (MOA) workers, job order employees, among others.
Santillan Dasmarinas, Courage first vice president, said government should add plantilla (regular) positions to absorb contractual employees.
Could government afford it? Dasmarinas suggested realigning a portion of the allocation for Miscellaneous and Other Operating Expenses of government agencies to Personnel Services to add regular positions.
For Baider, the fact that contractual employees like her have been receiving monthly salaries for a long period of time means the government has enough budget. “What would be added are benefits and our well-deserved leaves,” Baider said.
Immediate economic relief
Recognizing that providing additional plantilla positions is a midterm solution, Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo said that in the immediate, contractual government employees should get benefits and better working conditions.
Only 7.5 percent of the 26,400 employees at the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) are regulars. The rest are classified as MOA-hired workers or job order employees.
Taguiwalo, a longtime unionist before becoming joining Duterte’s Cabinet, immediately looked for ways to improve the welfare program of DSWD for its employees.
In August, the DSWD and the DSWD-Social Welfare Employees Association of the Philippines (SWEAP) has agreed to form a task force to “work for the MOA-hired employees’ welfare and benefits, towards possible regularization or the provision of appropriate benefits as may be allowed by law.”
Taguiwalo has also tapped professors from the University of the Philippines (UP), where she served as faculty regent, to provide review classes for MOA-hired employees who want to take the Civil Service Commission (CSC) examinations.
Labor Undersecretary Joel Maglunsod, meanwhile, said all government employees should be given P6,000 across-the-board salary hike.
Maglunsod added that it is also high time to revise the “regressive taxation policy” of the government.
Dasmarinas agreed, saying that those earning not more than P396,000 per year should be exempted from paying personal income tax. He said contractual employees are being made to pay withholding taxes like regular employees.
Collective action is key
Rosalinda Nartates, president of the NHA Consolidated Employees Union (CUE), urged MOA-hired employees to fight for job security and benefits.
Nartates called on fellow employees to pressure Congress to enact bills that seek to regularize contractual employees and to provide benefits to them.
Taguiwalo encouraged NHA employees to strengthen their ranks and continue asserting their rights. She said that even as President Rodrigo Duterte promised to end contractualization, it is the unions in different government agencies that are decisive in ending contractualization in the public sector.