By Chito Chavez
Government workers, mostly teachers and education personnel, demanded the immediate implementation of measures that will ensure their substantial salary increase.
The group, belonging to the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), maintained that the ratified 2019 budget did not include the long overdue demand of teachers for pay hikes.
Joselyn Martinez ACT national chairperson said: “We are on the last leg of Aquino’s salary adjustment, with the fourth tranche as the only reflected pay hike in the recently-approved spending program’’.
She noted the lopsided salary adjustment which gave paltry increases to lower-grade civil servants and “as much as doubled the pay of high-grade officials’’ failed to better the lives of ordinary government workers.
Before the term of former President (Benigno) Aquino ended, ACT said he signed Executive Order 201, effecting salary adjustments for government workers in four installments from 2016 to 2019.
Lopsided, distorted, eroded pay hike
Martinez stressed that teachers, who compose 800,000 of the total 1.4 million government employees as per the Department of Budget and Management’s (DBM) 2018 staffing summary, received one of the smallest increases under EO 201.
She cited specifically Teachers 1, or 52.4 percent of the total number of teaching personnel under the Department of Education (DepEd) belonging to salary grade 11, only received a total of 11.4 percent increase from 2015–2019, whereas legislators in Congress and the President received increases of 186.4 percent and 233.1 percent, respectively.
“The lamentable condition of our salaries was further distorted by President Duterte when he doubled the salary of the police and military while leaving the rest of us equally hardworking and honest public servants with our miniscule pay raise,” said Martinez.
ACT argued the salary adjustment was further rendered insignificant by the rising inflation which peaked last year in line with the implementation of the TRAIN law.
The militant teacher’s group noted “the cumulative inflation rate of 9.4 percent from 2015–2018 eroded the real value of their salaries’’.
ACT cited the 2018 salary of teacher 1 at P20,179 which only has a real value of P18,282, falling short of its 2015 equivalent of P18,549.
“Basically, EO 201 failed to curtail the weakening of our purchasing power due to inflation. This prompted us to call for an urgent increase of the Personnel Economic Relief Allowance (PERA) from Php2,000 to Php5,000 to allow us to recuperate from the erosion of our income,” said Martinez.
13-year freeze on relief allowance
Martinez described a 13-year freeze on the PERA which was last increased in 2006 upon issuance of Administrative Order 144 which increased the Additional Compensation to P1,000 and was later merged with the P500 PERA in accordance to Joint Resolution No. 4, turning both compensations into the Php2,000 PERA currently in effect.
“The need for immediate economic relief and substantive betterment of workers’ conditions cannot be overstated. Even though Congress failed to address the people’s demands, the government can still do something about it. We urge President Duterte to wield his power towards effecting a substantial salary increase which he repeatedly promised to teachers,” said Martinez.
The group also called for an increase in the minimum pay of government employees by upgrading salary grade 1 to P16,000 and P31,000 for Instructor 1.
ACT will lead education workers in a coordinated protest action of government employees on February 15.