10 February 2015

SBMA workers to Palace: Implement SSL pay raise

Employees of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) on Monday wore black armbands with the words “SSL Now!” during the flag-raising ceremony here to protest what they described as the “long overdue approval” of their salary increase which has been filed with the office of President Aquino in 2011.

Employees said the wearing of black armbands kicked off a series of mass actions that they will undertake for the government to take action about their plight and implement the salary standardization law (SSL) at the SBMA, a government-owned and -controlled corporation (GOCC).

They also planned to hold a candlelight vigil on Monday night to further demonstrate their pressing need for salary adjustment.

Richard Tabangin, a member of the SBMA Employees Association (SEA) that coordinated the protest, said SBMA employees have been seeking the approval of the Office of the President since 2011, to no avail.

“The SBMA has complied with all the various documents that the national government has been requiring for the past four years, but until this day there is yet no action. In the meantime, the SBMA workers are having a hard time making ends meet and providing their families with even the basic needs. Our children are suffering, and some of us had to resort to doing extra work on weekends for additional income,” he added.

“What the employees ask for is very basic: that the Office of the President grant the SBMA employees the government minimum wage enshrined in the salary standardization law,” Tabangin also said.

According to a letter sent by SEA chairman Ted Peñaflor to President Aquino on January 26, SBMA employees are seeking the implementation of Tranche 4 of the SSL, including its step increment as the base compensation plan for the SBMA.

Peñaflor said the SBMA salary rates since 2008 were unreasonably pegged way below the standards prescribed by Executive Order (EO) 76. Mr. Aquino signed said order on April 30, 2012, to implement the fourth tranche of the modified salary schedule for civilian personnel and base pay schedule for military and uniformed personnel in the government.

He lamented that the SBMA rank-and-file employees are poorly compensated in comparison to their counterparts in other GOCCs and local government units, who receive salaries that are 55 percent higher.

“We believe that laws apply [uniformly] to all, and EO 76, which implements a law, is applicable to all government employees and no one, much less the SBMA, cannot [ignore it] without violating the standard rates set by it,” Peñaflor added.

Meanwhile, SBMA Chairman Roberto Garcia tried to quell the unrest by saying that there is no other way than to “follow the procedure” and wait for President Aquino’s action.

“We have been fighting for this [salary adjustments] for three years now, but the question is, is the salary standardization law immediately executory?” Garcia said during the flag-raising program.

“I know that a lot of you are already impatient, but the bottom line is that we need the approval of the President before we can give the raise. H’wag nating pangunahan ang Pangulo,” he added, pointing out that both the petition for the wage adjustments under the SSL and the 10-percent increase sought by the SBMA have been filed with the proper offices.

Garcia further explained that the SBMA management had responded to the issue of salary increase by first improving the financial position of the agency.

“When I took over in 2011, the SBMA had losses of P8 billion, so how could we have afforded the increase? But we have improved the finances so that we can improve the salary, and we have already allocated P400 million in the 2015 budget for the implementation of the SSL,” he said.

“I understand your needs, but we have to follow the law. Let us not destroy the agency; let us do this the right way,” Garcia added. (Henry Empeño, BusinessMirror)

An SBMA employee wear a black armband on Monday to press Malacañang to approve adjustments in their salary.