Groups say S&T workers get no real pay hike, lose benefits under SSL 2015

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 26 (PNA) – Workers in the government’s science and technology (S&T) sector have expressed their strong opposition to some provisions of the proposed new salary standardization law (SSL), which they claim would give them no real salary increase but pay cut and loss of certain benefits.

In a statement reaching here Tuesday, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said a survey it recently conducted reveals that 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) for S&T that gives additional benefits to them.

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 because of some provisions on the SSL 2015 that threaten to repeal MC benefits in exchange for a four-year staggered salary hike, they claimed.

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

Its Section 8, according to them, says explicitly that “Magna Carta are the benefits authorized for specific officials and employees 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).”

Senator Ralph Recto, chair of the Senate committee on science and technology, said 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 MC could be scrapped and 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 such benefits.

Section 8 says, “The DBM, in coordination with agencies concerned, shall determine the qualifications, conditions and rates in the grant of certain benefits. Accordingly, the consultative councils, departments and officials previously authorized to issue implementing rules and regulations of Magna Carta benefits shall no longer exercise said function relative to the grant of such benefits.”

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

According to him, a salary grade 13 will only get Php3,700 in salary increase but will lose more than Php5,000 from the magna carta benefits.

He also said that there is really an attempt to scrap the MC 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 MC for S&T workers was signed into law in 1997 to give additional incentives to workers in the sector and counter the effects of brain drain in the country but implemented only recently as DOST agencies have to source from their savings to be able to provide said benefits, said Lazcano.

It provides the workers monthly subsistence and laundry allowance, as well as hazard and longevity pays.

Lazcano said the provision under SSL4 threatening to repeal R.A 8439 is a proof that not the entire government recognizes and truly understood the value of S&T in contributing to the Philippine economy.

“Several programs that are geared towards uplifting the local industry competitiveness, increasing the number of S & T human capital, improving our agriculture sector, and our efforts in disaster mitigation are only a few of those contributions of S&T", he said.

"Let us remind them that no country has ever attained progress without science, technology, and its human capital and it is never late for the country to invest more in S&T, particularly in manpower, instead of cutting off the work benefits they presently enjoy," Lascano added.

Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration’s Philippine Weathermen Employee Association (PWEA) 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 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.

The PWEA fully supports the immediate passage of SSL4 for the welfare of all government workers but, Agustin said, science groups hopefully pray for the exclusion of R.A. 8439 from the repeal.

The 4,000-strong United DOST Employees Association has also expressed its strong opposition to SSL 2015, particularly the provisions of its sections 8, 13 and 20.

In a separate statement, the Alyansa ng mga Grupong Haligi ng Agham at Teknolohiya para sa Mamamayan (AGHAM) said the move is not logical and untimely.

"The science community and science advocates worked hard for years for the passage of R.A. 8439. Its implementation is one way of sustaining and maintaining necessary talent and manpower for S&T," AGHAM president Angelo Palmones Palmones said.

The wisdom and relevance of R.A. 8439 is strengthened by reports on economic data which showed that S&T contribution to economic growth of developed countries is 70 percent; in underdeveloped countries – 30 percent; and in the Philippines about 40 percent, he added. (PNA) RMA/FGS/DOC/CBD