Wednesday, April 30, 2008

No to Artificial Solutions! Yes to Decent Work and Pay!

MANILA, Philippines - As the nation prepares to commemorate Labor Day, the Arroyo administration has certainly been busy conjuring artificial solutions to appease the growing frustration and resentment of workers nationwide over its anti-poor and anti-labor policies and programs.

GMA has declared that on May 1, she will be implementing a package of benefits to address workers’ concerns such as tax exemptions for minimum wage earners and provision of non-wage benefits for workers. But these plans barely touch on the real issues confronting the working class, both in the private and public sector.

Wages have never been as unacceptable, unjust and irreconcilable as they are now under the present regime which has indefatigably neglected the cries of workers for decent work, decent pay and decent life for all.

Working conditions continue to deteriorate and not enough decent jobs have been created for the people. Worse, the administration has even promoted the export of labor as a national policy, instead of working towards enhancing domestic employment and investing in human resources development.

We in the Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK), a national union representing more than 80,000 government workers from national government agencies, local government units, and government-owned and controlled corporations, will not be mislead into accepting quick, artificial solutions which are obviously political stunts meant to cover up GMA’s piling atrocities against all Filipino workers and project an image of a seemingly responsive and concerned president.

We will not be duped into accepting her so-called package of benefits which are merely poor substitutes for genuine decent work and job creation.To adequately address the concerns of government workers and help them cope with the worsening energy and food crises due to rising cost of oil and basic commodities, we workers in the public sector call for the following:

* Increase the salary bracket for tax exemption of government workers (tax exemptions to include at least those receiving Salary Grades 1 to 15)

* Moratorium on withholding the income tax of government employees to increase their take home pay for at least a year

* Instead of the planned 10 percent increase in the salaries of government workers which will hardly impact on their take home pay as it will only be eaten by tax, the government should push for the passage of the proposed Government Classification and Compensation Act—a bill that will not only make salaries of workers in the government comparable to those in the private sector but will also appropriately value work based on performance and a set of identified compensable factors.

It seeks to address the distortions and inequities plaguing the present compensation system and consequently reduce corruption and ease the outmigration of government nurses and teachers that has already led to the closure of several hospitals and health facilities.

* Increase budgetary allocations for basic public services such as health and education
* Condonation of the loan penalties for the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) to ease the financial burden of government employees

* Reform of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) Transparency and accountability must be brought back to the state pension fund. The gross mismanagement of GSIS must be stopped by instituting a revamp of its current Board of Trustees and sacking its President, Winston Garcia

* Creation of plantilla items for the casual or contractual workers in the government including Barangay Health Workers and Day care workers who are merely recognized as volunteers in the government

* Allocation of funds for the implementation of the different laws covering different sectoral groups in the public sector such as the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers, Magna Carta for Public School Teachers and Magna Carta for Disabled Persons Unless these calls are met, government workers who form the backbone of the bureaucracy will continue to bear the burden of meager and inequitable pay, failing investments in public services, corruption, deteriorating professionalism, and demoralization. This does not bode well for the millions of Filipinos now driven to poverty and dependence on public services.

It is high time the administration institute genuine measures for the sake of the 1.5 million-strong workforce it employs. Government workers will not any more tolerate artificial solutions by an artificial president!

General Secretary
Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK)
#15 Clarion Lily St., Saint Dominic Subdivision I
Congressional Avenue, Project 6, Quezon City

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