Sunday, March 3, 2024

S&T workers lament no real pay hike, lost benefits under SSL

Employees of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) came out of their offices at lunchtime on Monday, Jan. 25, to protest certain provisions of a bill on the standardization of salary of government employees.

Employees from the DOST's main office in Bicutan spent their lunchtime to protest the Salary Standardization Law. Credit: George Valencia III
Employees from the DOST’s main office in Bicutan spent their lunchtime to protest the Salary Standardization Law. Credit: George Valencia III

In a survey done by DOST, 4,850 or 88.42 percent of the 5,485 S&T workforce will not feel the effects of the salary increase as it threatens to repeal the Republic Act 8439 or the Magna Carta (MC) benefits for S&T workers.

RA 8439 was crafted to give additional benefits to S&T employees in the government.

Ironically, on the first year of the implementation of the salary increase, some 98.72 percent of S&T personnel will even get pay cuts.

This is because of some provisions on the Salary Standardization Law of 2015 (SSL 2015) that threaten to repeal Magna Carta benefits in exchange for a four-year staggered salary hike.

As such, United DOST Employees Association members strongly opposed particular SSL 2015 provisions, particularly sections 8, 13 and 20.

Both House and Senate bills HB 6268 and SB 2671 respectively contain these provisions which are disadvantageous, according to DOST employees.

Section 8, item I says explicitly that ?Magna Carta are the benefits authorized for specific officials and employees under MC laws that may be categorized in the Total Compensation Framework in accordance with the guidelines, rules and regulations to be issued by Department of Budget and Management (DBM).?

Sen. Ralph Recto, chair of the Senate Committee on Science and Technology, said that this means that Magna Carta benefits may be folded into the new salary rate.

The SSL 2015 also gives power to DBM to determine which benefits under the Magna Carta could be scrapped.

Aside from this, the bill takes away the power of the consultative councils, departments and officials who are authorized to issue the implementing rules and regulations of Magna Carta benefits.

?The proposed increase in salary of the SSL 2015 will amount to nothing if they take away our MC benefits,? said Joy M. Lazcano, president of the Science and Technology Information Institute Employees Association.

According to him, a salary grade 13 will only get P3,700 in salary increase but will lose more than P5,000 from the Magna Carta benefits.

He also said that there is really an attempt to scrap the Magna Carta benefits through section 20, which states ?All laws, decrees, orders, rules or regulations or parts thereof inconsistent with the provisions of this Act are hereby repealed, amended or modified accordingly. All laws inconsistent with this Act such as but not limited to PD 1638, RA 4670, RA6686, RA 7160, RA 7305, RA 8439, RA 8441, RA 8551, RA 9173, and RA 9433 are hereby amended.?

The Magna Carta for S&T workers was signed into law in 1997 to give additional incentives to S&T workers and counter the effects of brain drain in the country. RA 8439 provides S&T workers monthly subsistence and laundry allowance, as well as hazard and longevity pays.

However, RA 8439 was fully implemented only recently as DOST agencies sourced from their savings to be able to provide said benefits.

Meanwhile, Pagasa?s Philippine Weathermen Employee Association president Ramon Agustin said that the provision to repeal R.A. 8439 will threaten the S&T workers? economic well-being.

?The law has been in existence since 1997 but was only funded through GAA only recently. But now (we are) on the verge of returning back to the old days when we virtually begged for funding. We cannot afford to go back to these dark past. We will absolutely oppose this provision to protect our rights,? Agustin said.


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