By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
Amid continued calls for higher pay hike, teachers’ groups urged the education and budget departments to stop the “misrepresentation” of their benefits – emphasizing that “wages and benefits” are two different things.
The Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) and the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines both called out the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), as well as the Department of Education (DepEd), for “misrepresenting” their benefits and salaries in a bid to justify the proposed 21 percent pay hike for state workers which include teachers.
Both teachers’ groups have been at the forefront in calling for salary increase for the public school teachers. TDC has been asking for a P10,000 across-the-board pay hike while the ACT is demanding for P30,000 entry level salary increase for teachers; Php31,000 for college instructors, and for a national minimum wage of Php16,000.
TDC and ACT expressed disappointment following the completion of DBM’s study on government salaries. For both groups, the DBM as well as the DepEd did not take into consideration the “real plight” of teachers and just cited benefits that are “rightfully” theirs.
For TDC, the DBM position’s seems that it “would never favor across-the-board and salary upgrading proposals” and instead, “their discussion focuses on the continuation” of the salary standardization law (SSL).
“We have previously stated that SSL has never been fair and equitable to teachers and only favors high government positions,” said TDC National Chairperson Benjo Basas. “This is also why we ask for an additional P10,000 across-the-board raise regardless of the stipulation under SSL in recognition of the government’s shortcomings in neglecting teachers and ignoring the provisions of the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers (RA 4670) enacted since 1966,” he added.
The Magna Carta, Basas stressed, “should be used as a basis for teacher pay system and not SSL because it is a special law created for the benefit of teachers just as it is a unique policy for military and uniformed personnel not covered by SSL which was actually just last year was given 100 percent pay without tranches.”
For ACT, the claims of DBM and the DepEd that public school teachers receive “additional special benefits” reveal that the teachers’ demands are in line with RA 4670 or the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers.
“In a bid to present the government’s paltry 21 percent pay hike as passable, DBM and DepEd has resorted yet again to misrepresenting teachers’ compensation and benefits, further exposing their lack of understanding of our grim economic and working conditions,” said ACT National Chairperson Joselyn Martinez.
Citing DBM, TDC noted that the salaries that teachers currently receive are “sufficient and the pay should only be concurrent with all government employees under SSL.”
Basas noted that in an official statement of DBM, it “also said that in addition to wages and other benefits for the staff, we still have benefits that are exclusive or only to us” such as the honoraria for teaching overload for every hour of actual classroom teaching in excess of six (6) hours per day or 30 hours per week; the Special Hardship Allowance (SHA) which shall not exceed 25 percent of the annual basic salary, for those teachers and school administrators who are assigned in the hardship post; the World Teachers’ Day Incentive Benefit (WTDIB) of P1, 000 per teacher to be granted during the annual World Teachers’ Day celebration; the proportional Vacation Pay during the Christmas break and the summer vacation; and one (1) SG increase to take effect on the last day of the service of the retiring public school teacher.
However, the TDC noted that since 1966 there has been no “honoraria for teaching overload” among teachers. “Although the budget for it was first allocated in 2018, the DepEd has not issued any guidelines to implement it – in other words, many teachers have overtime work, but no overtime pay,” Basas said. The implementation of the SHA, TDC claimed, is “another violation” of Magna Carta.
While thankful for the P1,000-WTDIB, Basas said that it “hurts” teachers “to include it in justification to say that our wages and benefits are sufficient.” For the PVP every summer and Christmas is justification, he noted that “we have wages even though we have no jobs in those days.”
Unbeknownst to the DBM, TDC said that “teachers have almost no vacation” because numerous tasks that are required of them by DepEd which even eat up their holiday breaks. For the Magna Carta’s “One Salary Grade Higher” provision, TDC also alleged that this is “also not implemented.”
ACT also slammed DBM and DepEd for citing the “special benefits” received by teachers. The group argued the “severe shortages and problems” with these. For instance, “overload pay” referred to is “actually only overtime pay, while our actual overload in terms of oversized classes and the non-teaching tasks we are forced to take on due to the severe lack in non-teaching staff remain uncompensated.”
The ACT also furthered that these benefits “essentially serve the purpose of covering for the lacking state resource allocation to education.” The group also raised questions on the SHA and PVP of teachers – among others.
Martinez noted while these “glaring issues” with teachers’ benefits merit its own attention, she emphasized the need to “differentiate” benefits from wages or salaries. “Allowances and benefits serve specific purposes, whereas salaries supposedly allow us to meet the basic costs of living,” she said. “Hence our urgent demand for teachers’ basic pay to be set at decent and livable standards,” she added.
Both groups vowed to stage more and bigger protest actions in the following weeks to further express their dismay with the government and to intensify their call for higher pay hike.