Health workers walk out over salary law

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Workers in Metro Manila hospitals run by the Department of Health (DOH) walked out of work at noon yesterday to protest the proposed Salary Standardization Law (SSL) 4 and the possible repeal of the Magna Carta of public health employees.

Robert Mendoza, president of the Alliance of Health Workers, said they find it ironic that the government would add P500 to their monthly pay and yet take away more than P7,000 in Magna Carta benefits.

“The SSL is deceptive and treacherous. It falsely advertises an increase in the salaries of government workers but it will actually rob us of our benefits,” Mendoza said.

Under the proposed SSL, all Magna Carta laws providing benefits to public health workers, teachers in public schools, weather forecasters and science and technology personnel will be repealed.

Leopoldo Margallo, public relations officer of the San Lazaro Hospital Employees Association, said nurses in government hospitals are still demanding a monthly salary of P25,000.

The hospital workers vowed to launch a series of protests against the SSL.

Noy may veto pay hike bill

Like the P2,000 Social Security System pension increase bill, the proposed SSL 4 for the bureaucracy is in danger of being vetoed by President Aquino, House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said yesterday.

“If there is a large gap in funding that will result in increasing the budget deficit, I think the President might be forced to veto SSL 4,” Gonzales told reporters.

He said Malacañang has informed leaders of the House of Representatives that there are no funds in the 2016 budget for the Senate version of the draft SSL 4.

“The House version is fully funded in this year’s budget. So the Senate will have to accept our version or there might be no SSL 4 at all, meaning government employees will not get a salary increase,” he said.

The congressmen’s version calls for increasing the salaries of the 1.527 million state workers, including 347,000 military and other uniformed personnel (policemen, firemen, Coast Guard members and jail guards).

For their pay hike this year, the House has included P58 billion in the national budget.

Aside from adjusting the pay of government employees, senators want the pensions of 211,584 military and other uniformed personnel (MUP) retirees adjusted as well and indexed to the salary increase of their counterparts in the active service.

The senators’ proposal would require an additional funding of P19.5 billion for this year alone.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad has said there is no money in the 2016 budget for the senators’ indexation proposal.

During the first meeting of the bicameral conference committee on the draft SSL 4 last week, lead Senate conferee Antonio Trillanes IV, a former Navy officer, insisted on indexation of MUP retirees’ pension to protect his constituents.

Abad said the proposed SSL 4-House version would cost a total of P226 billion over its four-year implementation period: P57.906 billion this year, P54.393 billion next year, P65.976 billion in 2018 and P47.544 billion in 2019.

But Gonzales said he agreed with Sen. Ralph Recto that Abad’s figures for 2017, 2018 and 2019 are only incremental costs.

“The almost P58-billion funding for this year is carried over to the second, third and fourth years. This means that the minimum appropriation needed over four years is P58 billion times four or P232 billion, which exceeds Secretary Abad’s P226 billion,” he said.

He said the P54.393 billion needed on the second year would be on top of the P58 billion that would be paid this year and would have to be appropriated again next year.

“Our revised computation is that the financial impact of SSL 4 without indexation would be P574.22 billion starting on the fourth year. Indexation will cost at least P276 billion, so the total impact would be at P850 billion, which is more than the P811 billion allocated for salaries this year,” he added. – With Jess Diaz

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