Special Issue #1
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Employees' Issues under the Estrada Government:
As the Ramos government exited, over 330,000 government employees were laid-off; majority are still receiving an income below poverty threshold; job security is violated; and union rights trampled upon. The basic sectoral concerns of better pay, security of tenure, and union rights remain as contentious issues of government employees with the entrance of the Estrada administration.
The struggle for a living wage is as basic as the demand for job security. These are twin concerns of all Filipino workers including the government employees. Thus, it must be clear from the start that the government to justify the implementation of its policy on mass lay-off should not use the demand for salary increase.
Through the militant struggle of public sector workers, the Salary Standardisation Law (SSL I) was passed in 1989. The law afforded government employees a monthly base pay of PhP2,200 from various amounts of as low as PhP600. In 1993, militant actions for salary increase resulted to SSL II which raised the monthly base pay to PhP4,400.
Though the last instalment of SSL II was paid in 1997, about 35% of 1.2-M government employees already received their last increase in 1996. A monthly base pay of PhP4, 400 translated at the current purchasing power of Philippine Peso is equivalent to PhP1, 540. A monthly real wage of PhP1, 540 or even a gross base pay of PhP4, 400 is definitely way below the monthly cost of living of PhP12, 936.90 or PhP431.23 per day.
The inadequacy of the current salary rates to meet the minimum daily needs require no further elaboration as the crunch of the crisis is endured by everyone. Even the legislators and the top executives are anxious to implement their pay hike which will double the current amount. What guts indeed for these politicians and high bureaucrats to cry demand for higher pay while maintaining a cheap labor policy!
The governments cheap labor policy which is meant to attract foreign investors and as part of austerity measures dictated upon by the IMF-World Bank to ensure automatic allocations for our staggering foreign debt of US$ 45.433 B is the real culprit.
While keeping the salaries of government employees below poverty threshold, the government is deficit spending to keep the pockets of the top echelons full from pork barrel and their takes from government deals. A lopsided national budget that continues to cut amounts for social services and subsidy for public service.
In the same frame, the Estrada administration has repeatedly announced the need to downsize the bureaucracy via mass lay-off. In his ten-point program, he intends to regain the power of the President to reorganise the bureaucracy and will create a Presidential Commission on Government Reorganization to oversee the process.
Re-engineering or reorganisation of the bureaucracy has always been a means of the administration to consolidate its power. Estrada is using an abused argument that the objective of its reorganisation is a lean and mean bureaucracy. On the contrary, as in the past, it is expected to result to the positioning of mix interest groups in his government.
Public institutions are abolished and created depending on the agenda of the powers that be and never to improve the delivery of services. It is a repeated process, never ending as a matter of fact, that victimises only the rank-and-file employees and independent-minded middle managers. It continues to violate the security of tenure of public sector workers as well as the merit and promotion system for career officials.
One of government's key policy of privatization has resulted to mass lay-off, a recent case was the sale of the Metropolitan Waterworks & Sewerage System (MWSS) that turned its remaining 5,600 employees as contractual after 2,000 of them were retired earlier.
Now comes the priority to sell institutions dealing with basic services such as; National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR), National Food Authority (NFA), Philippine Postal Corporation (PPC), and others. However, beyond mass lay-off of affected employees, privatization is a policy that only burdened the people while satisfying the greed for super profits by foreign monopoly capital and their local counterparts.
This is one area where the Estrada administration has shown an early sign of double talk. The President, in a radio interview, announced that he will not allow the privatization of government hospitals and bragged about using the pork barrel for tuition fee subsidies during his inaugural speech. Yet his program speak of selling all public institutions especially those in basic and social services, strategic utilities and industries, and the patrimony.
Public Sector Workers' Response:
The masses cannot expect any relief but further suffering from the policy orientation of the Estrada government that is the same as Ramos strategy that resulted to economic crisis and government bankruptcy.
Unlike Ramos term, which started in a better world financial condition, Estrada is faced with worsening global economic crisis and tight fiscal shape. His direction to depend even more on foreign intervention is bound to subject every Filipino to greater difficulties to the extent that the majority of them will not be willing to endure.
It is therefore expected that the very masa (masses) that voted for Estrada as President will heighten their protests to seek immediate relief and even long term alternatives. The people will primarily depend on their long experience in the mass movement.
In the same breath, we, the government employees shall strengthen our ranks and fight for our demands. It is important though for the public sector workers to recognise that their sectional concerns are intertwined with the national concerns. Therefore, we must act in unity with the other sectors and the Filipino masses as we address our immediate problems.
Thus, we, government employees will:
I. Fight for Salary Increase, Job Security, and Full Union Rights.
1. An additional monthly base pay of PhP 2,500. This is an amount within the frame of general salary increase in order to cope with the decrease in the real wage due to the lowering of the purchasing power of the Philippine Peso.
Against the IMF-World Bank dictated policy on mass lay-off and the protection of the basic right on job security.
2. Regularization of all benefits including the amelioration pay, hazard pay, productivity incentive bonus (PIB), anniversary bonus, and other palpable gains won by public sector workers through collective negotiation agreements (CNA).
3. Review, amend or repeal of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) Act of 1997 regarding higher mandatory contributions by employees, improvement in benefits, and proper accounting of the GSIS funds.
4. Repeal of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 06, Series of 1987 and other similar issuances violating the right of government employees on full union rights including the right to strike.
II. Oppose and expose the policy of privatization.
1. Oppose the sale and commercialization of public institutions & assets specially those that provides the basic and social services such as hospitals and health services, agricultural services, universities and colleges, power, water, postal, roads, ports, transportation, communication, housing, and staple food.
2. Oppose the sale and completion of the privatization of public assets of earning government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) and government financial institutions (GFIs) like the PNB, PAL, Petron, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), coconut levy fund, and others as source of revenue to support the budget deficits of the government.
3. Oppose the privatisation of GSIS, Social Security System (SSS) and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PHIC) which are trust funds accumulated from mandatory deductions from private and public sector workers and therefore owned by them.
4. Oppose and Expose the immediate and long term effects of privatization of public institutions such as mass lay-off of concerned employees and the profit orientation in the delivery of basic and social services resulting to scarcity and unaffordability.
5. Expose the ulterior motives of privatization as satisfying the greed of foreign monopoly capital and local big business for super profit and the collusion of politicians and high bureaucrats for kickbacks.
III. Oppose and Expose the Re-engineering of the bureaucracy.
1. Oppose all schemes of mass lay-off such as the mandatory 5% reduction of personnel every six months, abolition and mergers of agencies, internal restructuring, regularization of GOCCs, and the like.
2. Oppose the plan of President Estrada to attain blanket authority and sole prerogative to reorganise the bureaucracy and the creation of the Presidential Commission on Government Reorganization and other agencies aimed at serving the personal interests of the Estrada government and its benefactors.
3. Oppose all attempts of the Estrada administration to violate the merit and promotion system of the civil service, which will victimize the ranks of middle managers, especially the progressives and independent-minded in order to consolidate its hold on the bureaucracy by appointing their proteges to important positions.
4. Oppose all attempts of the Estrada administration to use the process of reorganization to harass and decimate the strength of the organised section of the government employees.
Likewise, we shall actively involve in campaigns on national concerns with the following as the most critical and urgent:
Oppose and Expose the plan for Charter Change (cha-cha) that is geared towards the furtherance of the neo-liberal policies of liberalization, deregulation and privatization; specifically, allowing land ownership to foreigners, 100% foreign capitalization in investments; and the entry of Transnational Corporations (TNCs) in other investment areas such retail trade and media.
Oppose the commitment of President Estrada to work for the ratification of the Visiting Forces' Agreement (VFA) which will turn the entire country as military bases of the US by allowing the use of all ports, joint military exercises, and granting of special privileges. The VFA which was signed by former President Ramos is set for ratification by the SENATE in October, 1998;
Oppose the series of oil price hike and the rising prices of basic commodities and services; and
Oppose the reconcentration of land into the hands of foreign corporations and local landlords through massive landgrabbing and land conversion, which are being perpetrated by the government. ###