The ACT Teachers Party filed on Feb. 21 House Bill 7211, An Act Increasing the Minimum Salaries of Public School Teachers and other Government Employees and Augmenting the Personnel Economic Relief Allowance (PERA).
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA — Government workers strengthened their unity as they push for a salary increase of civilian employees.
The All Government Employees Unity or All GE Unity said that rising cost of basic commodities, utilities, children’s education and transportation fares, among others are compelling reasons for President Duterte’s administration to heed their call.
On Feb. 21, they marched to Chino Roces bridge (former Mendiola bridge) to once again amplify their long time call. Ferdinand Gaite, president of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE) said they have been pushing for a significant salary increase for four years already but their calls fell on deaf ears.
“Mabuti pa ang mga pulis at sundalo. Ika nga, ‘Tayo ang nagtamin, pero iba ang kumain,’ (Police and soldiers are now in a better situation. As the saying goes, ‘we planted and yet somebody ate the food.’) he said during the program in Mendiola.
They said civilian personnel also deserve to receive a significant increase like their uniformed personnel counterparts.
“Will we allow this? That only the military and uniformed personnel will get an increase and the civilian personnel are left behind?” Gaite asked the protesters who responded with a resounding no.
Gaite lamented that the current entry-level position of a civilian employee in the public sector receives only P10, 500 ($202), which could not cope up with the rising cost of living now that the first, of the four packages of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law (TRAIN), has taken effect.
The TRAIN law imposes higher excise taxes on fuel, sugary beverages, and cars among others.
The All GE Unity is a coalition of organizations of public school teachers, health workers and all civilian personnel nationwide. They demand for a P16, 000 ($308) minimum wage for entry-level civilian personnel, P30, 000 ($577) for entry-level public school teachers and nurses; and P31, 000 ($597) for Instructor I in state universities and colleges (SUCs).
Surviving life in meager salary, tenure insecurity
The group also lambasted the continuing contractualization in the public sector. Gaite said there is a significant number of contractual employees in the government sector. Based on the data of the Civil Service Commission (CSC), Gaite said, there are 600,000 contractual employees out of the 2.3 million government employees.
Cristy Palisoc, 28, for one, has been a working as a house parent in one of the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) shelter in Mandaluyong City for five years but without security of tenure.
Their shelter caters to what they described as improved mentally ill patients or patients who were discharged from the National Center for Mental Health. Most of their patients have no homes and relatives to fetch them after being discharged from the hospital.
Palisoc is one of the 17,000 employees of the DSWD hired under a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) or what they call as MOA-hired workers or MOA workers.
MOA workers comprise the biggest number of employees in DSWD. Only 3,000 are regular employees while 9,000 are contractual workers nationwide.
Her contract is renewed every six months. She does not have benefits such as leave credits and 13th month pay. Her gross monthly salary is P14, 500 ($279.10), but she only takes home P11, 000 ($212) due to other deductions and taxes. Knowing that she will be needing social security, she said, she pays for her own contributions for PhilHealth and Social Security System. She has a three-year old daughter while her husband is currently unemployed.
How does her family survive the increasing cost of living? She said she has no other choice but to go to loan sharks. “That’s how it is. I pay and then I will loan again later,” she said in Filipino, just to get by until another payday.
“Bahala na si Lord,” she added. (I just give it all up to the Lord.)
As a house parent, Palisoc’s task is to take care of the wellbeing of their client. They assist their clients who are recovering from mental illnesses. They take care of their hygiene, grooming and also feed them. The ratio of the house parent to client in the shelter is 1: 70 or 1: 50. She said their clients’ number has doubled. Ideally, they could only accommodate 100 clients but at present they have 200. There are only 15 house parents in their shelter and half of them are MOA workers.
Nonie Belga, 58, on the other hand, is a regular employee. She is also a house parent for 28 years where Palisoc is also working. It took 10 years before she became a regular. Belga also receive almost the same salary as Palisoc even with her years of service. That is why, she said, the salary increase of P16, 000 would be of great help to them if it were approved.
Scrap Joint Circular No. 1 series of 2017
The All GE Unity also calls for the scrapping of Joint Circular No. 1 series of 2017 released by the CSC, Commission on Audit and Department of Budget and Management on June 15, 2017. In this circular, government employees who are hired under contracts of service (COS) and job orders (JOs) will be transferred to a private hiring agency. At present, these workers have their contracts directly with their respective government agencies.
According to the circular, “workers under a contract of service or job order are not covered by Civil Service law, rules, and regulations; and that services rendered thereunder are not considered as government service.”
All national agencies are covered by this memorandum, including Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations, state universities and colleges and constitutional bodies that have employees hired under JOs and COS. Their contracts will end on Dec. 31 of this year and will start their new contract with a new private agency.
But Gaite said the circular would only result to massive contractualization because there is no intention to regularize government employees. Employees who are presently hired under JOs and COS are also in danger of losing their jobs because of the circular, he said. There is also no provision in the circular that explicitly say that these workers will be regularized.
He said the circular is no different from Department of Labor and Employment’s Department Order No. 174, which also do not aim for the regularization of workers.
Palisoc who joined the protest in Mendiola and other MOA workers in DSWD are affected by this circular.
Meanwhile, at the House of Representatives, the ACT Teachers Party filed on Feb. 21 House Bill 7211, An Act Increasing the Minimum Salaries of Public School Teachers and other Government Employees and Augmenting the Personnel Economic Relief Allowance (PERA).
The bill aims to raise the entry-level salary of public school teachers to P30, 000 ($577) a month and P16, 000 for the lowest salary in government. It also aims to increase the PERA granted to all government employees from P2, 000 ($39) per month to P5, 000 ($96).
According to ACT Teachers Party Rep. Antonio Tinio, the “bill aims to correct the injustices and distortion in the salary standardization law and enable salaries to catch up with the cost of living and approximate the family living wage of P1,119 ($22) per day (P33,570 or $646 per month) for a family of six.”