13 February 2015

SBMA employees ramp up protest

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—Employees of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) brought their protest to the next level on Thursday with a 30-minute noise barrage to demand the release of what they described as long-overdue salary adjustments.

Beating on empty cans and metal covers, blowing whistles and honking car horns, the protesters converged during lunch break at the SBMA main office where members of the agency’s board of directors were having a meeting.

“Kailangan nang kalampagin ang mga nasa itaas upang marinig nila ang daing naming nasa ibaba [We have to make noise in order for the bosses to pay attention to us small workers],” cried Manang Diding de la Cruz, a utility worker who was beating on a metal box.

Manang Diding is 59 years old and has been an employee of the SBMA since 1993, after serving as a volunteer. As a contractual employee with a salary grade 8, Manang Diding earns P8,200 a month, not enough, she said, to buy a decent meal for her family.

“Gusto naming sabihin kay Chairman [Roberto] Garcia, na bilang ama ng SBMA, kailangan n’yang ipursige ang laban na ito hanggang aprubahan na ni P-Noy ang aming salary increase [We want Chairman Roberto Garcia to know that, as head of the SBMA, he needs to pursue this fight until President Aquino approves our salary increase],” de la Cruz said.

“Marami nang hirap na hirap sa sitwasyong ganito [A lot of us are having great difficulty in this situation],” Manang Diding added.

After launching their protest by wearing black armbands on Monday morning during the flag-raising ceremony, SBMA employees have been conducting candlelight vigils each evening after office hours in front of Garcia’s office.

Ted Peñaflor, chairman of the SBMA Employees Association, said the protesters have petitioned the office of President Aquino since 2011 for salary adjustments because the SBMA salary rates fixed in 2008 are way below the standards set by Executive Order No. 76.

“We have been left way, way behind by our counterparts in other GOCCs [government-owned and controlled corporations]. We know that the SBMA has already completed all the requirements regarding our petition, but nothing has been done about out plight,” Peñaflor said.As the workers began their protest on Monday, SBMA Chairman Roberto Garcia asked them for more patience, saying that there is no other way than to “follow the procedure” and wait for Mr. Aquino’s action.

He assured the employees that both the petition for the wage adjustments under the Salary Standardization Law and the 10-percent increase sought by the SBMA have been filed with the proper offices and have received favorable review by both the Commission on Audit and the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel.

“The bottom line is, we have to get the approval of the President,” Garcia said.

Manang Diding and the rest of the workers believe, however, that they cannot be complacent amid assurances from the management.

“Mas lalong dapat tayong mag-ingay ngayon; kung hindi, baka mamaya ay makalimutan na naman tayo (We have to make more noise, then; otherwise they would soon forget about us again),” she said. (Henry Empeño, BusinessMirror)

SBMA employees gathered together during lunch break for a noise barrage to demand the implementation of the SSL. (AMD)