Weathermen, S&T workers buck removal of benefits
(The Philippine Star) - January 25, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Employees of the state weather bureau are up in arms against the possible repeal of Republic Act 8439 or the Magna Carta for science and technology (S&T) workers under the proposed Salary Standardization Law (SSL).

Wearing black armbands, employees of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) held a protest during their flag-raising rites and a sit-down rally during their noon break yesterday.

Instead of a salary increase, 99 percent of Department of Science and Technology (DOST) personnel will get a pay cut in the first year of implementation of the proposed SSL owing to a provision, which threatens to repeal all benefits for scientists, engineers, researchers and other S&T personnel.

PAGASA is an attached agency of the DOST.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, however, said the additional benefits public school teachers, health workers and S&T personnel are getting under RA 8439 would not be taken away.

“The Magna Carta benefits of scientists, social and health workers and other government employees shall not be repealed in the proposed SSL,” he said.

“There is no provision in the proposed law that would diminish or remove the existing Magna Carta benefits of our government personnel. In fact, SSL 2015 – as in the previous SSL 3 – recognizes the benefits as among the authorized incentives in the total compensation framework,” Abad said.

Ramon Agustin, president of the Philippine Weathermen Employees' Association, urged lawmakers to revise the proposed SSL so as not to scrap the workers’ benefits provided under RA 8439.

“This is not a work slow- down, we will never do that, we’re still doing our work,” Agustin explained.

He said the protest actions would continue until tomorrow when the Senate and House of Representatives finalize the proposed SSL during a bicameral conference.

Agustin said the benefits that rank-and-file PAGASA employees stand to lose would be bigger than the salary increases they would get under SSL over a four-year period.

He said only top government officials would benefit from the SSL.

Agustin warned of the possible departure of seasoned forecasters if the benefits for S&T workers would be removed.

A study conducted by DOST employees showed the scrapping of Magna Carta benefits would result in 98.72 percent of S&T personnel getting a pay reduction.

The United DOST Employees' Association opposed both versions of Congress for being disadvantageous to S&T personnel.

“The proposed increase in salary in the SSL will amount to nothing if they take away our Magna Carta benefits,” Joy Lazcano, president of the Science and Technology Information Institute Employees Association, said.

Lazcano said a Salary Grade 13 worker would get an increase of P3,700 but would lose more than P5,000 in benefits.

Signed in 1997, the Magna Carta provides S&T personnel in government additional monthly benefits such as hazard pay, subsistence allowance and longevity pay to discourage them from leaving for higher-paying jobs abroad.

 

ACIRC AGUSTIN AMP BENEFITS BUDGET SECRETARY FLORENCIO ABAD DEPARTMENT OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY EMPLOYEES GEOPHYSICAL AND ASTRONOMICAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION JOY LAZCANO MAGNA CARTA SSL
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