By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — Government employees call on the Aquino administration to honor their incentive pay, as recognized in the Salary Standardization Law III.
“We are almost at the level of paralysis because there is money that can be allocated for social services and to augment the poor living conditions of the people, including government workers, but are not being utilized,” Ferdinand Gaite, national president of the Confederation of Unions for the Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees, told Bulatlat.com.
The Salary Standardization Law III provides for a Collective Negotiations Agreement (CNA) incentive, which, according to the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees is in recognition of the accomplishment of “performance targets at lesser cost, and in attaining more efficient and viable operations through cost cutting measures and systems improvement.”
But a circular was issued by the Department of Budget and Management last September 29 titled “Reminder on the Observance of the Guidelines on the Grant of the Collective Negotiation Agreement Incentive. In the circular, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad cited Joint Resolution No. 4 of the Senate and House of Representatives, which is more commonly known as the Salary Standardization Law 3. But, at the latter part of the letter, Abad asked government agencies to submit a report “on the utilization of savings for the payment of the CNA incentive.”
Gaite said the circular letter has “maliciously and purposely omitted the source of the fund” even if SSL 3 stipulates that the benefits such as CNA incentive shall be provided under the General Appropriations Act. The group addd that P8.8 billion ($203 million) was already allocated for CNA incentive in the proposed 2012 budget.
“There are reports that this was an ‘honest mistake’ on the part of Abad. He could pretend if he wants to but it would be more convincing if he did not cite the provisions of the law itself,” Gaite told Bulatlat.com, “Besides, ignorance of the law excuses no one.”
A mere errata?
Gaite said that in the 2011 budget, $196 million was allotted for the CNA incentive but was placed under the government’s Unprogrammed Funds. This was further increased to $203 million in the 2012 budget.
Abad, however, issued errata sheets, deleting the provision for the CNA incentive and redirecting the budget to the Unprogrammed Funds. With this, Courage said, they do not believe that it was a simple miscalculation on the part of the administration.
“We think that the Malacañang is consciously trying to consolidate the P8.8 billion into the National Treasury; a move indicative of this administration’s thrust towards centralizing government funds, which we fear will promote a centralized and systematized corruption, since government funds for personnel services are pooled into a single pay master.
Courage said the government’s decision to remove the appropriated budget for the CNA incentive will be a “deadly blow to employees who are relying on their CNA incentives to augment their paltry income.”
“The CNA incentive serves as a source of scant economic relief for government employees who are already struggling to make ends meet—a scenario which only serves to highlight the necessity of a substantial wage increase,” the group said, referring to the demand for a $139 increase to the minimum pay of all government workers.
Despite the remaining salary adjustments under the Salary Standardization Law 3, government employees earlier said that it is too meager to make a difference since only high ranking officials were given a significant raise in their salaries, not the rank and file employees.
The meager salaries of government employees, Courage said, could hardly suffice for their daily needs, given the continuing price hikes of staple food, oil and services. Aside from their calls for a salary increase and honoring the incentive pay, a substantial increase on clothing allowance, which is a mere $93 a year that has remained unchanged since 2000, would be of great help to the service of government employees.
Attack on workers rights
Gaite said the Aquino administration is following the footsteps of its predecessor with its underspending on social services and the welfare of the people. “It proves that the Aquino’s straight path is actually crooked.”
Courage said the CNA incentive is a product of the collective and mass campaigns of government employees as they fight for and defend their rights.
“Abad’s anti-employee directive is tantamount to a blatant attack on our rights,” Courage said in a statement, “The benefits that we get from our CNA, including the CNA incentive, are products of various mass campaigns and struggles that we waged throughout the years.”