House may pass pay hike for gov’t workers Wednesday - Gonzales | Inquirer News
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House may pass pay hike for gov’t workers Wednesday – Gonzales

/ 06:09 PM November 10, 2015

CONGRESS leaders said the bill increasing the pay of government workers may be passed on third and final reading on Wednesday if certified by the President as urgent.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Majority floor leader Neptali Gonzales II said the bill is expected to hurdle the appropriations committee on Wednesday before being sent to the plenary for possible passage once President Benigno Aquino III certifies it as urgent.

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Aquino endorsed House Bill 6268 or the Salary Standardization Law (SSL) 2015 to Congress on Monday after the budget department conducted a thorough study on the merits of adjusting the salary grades of public sector employees closer to the pay of their private sector counterparts.

“Kung ma-out ng committee ito tomorrow (Wednesday), and incidentally the Speaker yesterday (Monday) suggested na ipa-certify na as urgent itong SSL 2015… if ma-receive ang certification tomorrow, by stroke of luck magkaroon ng quorum tomorrow evening, then don’t be surprised if we are able to approve it on second and third reading tomorrow,” Gonzales said.

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The President’s certification of a bill as urgent would fast track the passage of a proposed measure on second and third reading on the same day.

“This is a show of force na binibigyan natin ng importansiya ang bill na ito,” Gonzales said.

In the same press conference, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. downplayed views that the administration endorsed a pay hike bill to Congress to make up for its refusal to support the proposed legislation lowering the income tax, which it said could drastically reduce revenue and dampen credit ratings.

Belmonte said the SSL only targets government employees, not the entire labor force which stands to benefit from a lower income tax rate.

He said the SSL 2015 aims to bridge the gap between the pay of public sector employees and their private sector counterparts to encourage more to seek work in government.

“Not necessarily. Itong SSL 2015 really targets government employees lang. The very important positions are left unfilled because the compensation is not adequate,” Belmonte said.

Belmonte further clarified that he and other lawmakers who will tackle the proposed legislation would not benefit from the bill.

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The pay hike for members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, as well as Cabinet secretaries, will take effect after the expiration of the incumbents’ terms in July 2016.

Belmonte said the Constitution prevents lawmakers from benefiting from the salary increase during the incumbency of their terms at the time of the pay hike approval. Under the Constitution, it is upon Congress to provide for the standardization of compensation for government employees and officials.

“For the record, none of the existing members of the House will be a beneficiary of this because the law, the Constitution, prohibits our benefiting from these things. Third party lang kami,” Belmonte said.

The militant Makabayan bloc called for the scrapping of the SSL 2015, which they claimed gives a paltry salary increase to ordinary workers and grants a hefty increase to the President and other high-ranking government officials.

Act Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio lamented the small P2,205 increase for the country’s 600,000 public school teachers in the four tranches of SSL 2015 implementation.

He said the current salary of an entry-level teacher is at P18,549. Under the SSL, the pay for Teacher 1 would increase to P19,077 in the first year of implementation in 2016, P19,620 in 2017, P20,179 in 2018, and P20,754 in 2019.

“Ang average nito ay P551 increase per year. Sa isang buwan, P551 ang magiging dagdag divided by the number of working days, is something like P24 per day ang increase for public school teachers,” Tinio said.

“It’s a total of 11.9 percent increase… The inflation is around three and four percent. A P500 increase, hindi maco-cover ang inflation,” Tinio added.

He dubbed as “double whammy” the administration’s SSL 2015 on top of its refusal to back the proposed measure to lower income tax.

Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap also said the SSL 2015 only favors the high-ranking officials while keeping the pay hike of ordinary workers at the minimum.

He said the SSL is also meant to boost public support for Liberal Party standard-bearer Mar Roxas in the elections next year.

“SSL 2015 ay self-serving sa administrasyon ni Aquino. Tingin ko, bahagi ito ng kanilang kampanya para matiyak ang suporta sa tatakbong presidentiable ng Liberal Party,” Hicap said.

Budget department

In a statement on Monday, Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad said the proposed bill seeks a four-year P226 billion compensation hike for the government’s 1.53 million civilian and military and uniformed personnel.

The compensation package is composed of a salary increase, a mid-year 14th-month pay, and an enhanced performance-based bonus (PBB) system, Abad said.

He added that the salary hike would increase the basic Salary Grade 1 from P9,000 to P11,068 a month.

The bill seeks to increase the basic salary of covered employees by an average of 27 percent. The 14th-month pay will increase compensation by eight percent.

Meanwhile, the enhanced PBB is equivalent to one to two months’ salary or an average 10 percent increase in salary.

“Government personnel who play a greater role and carry a heavier responsibility in improving government performance, will receive a higher bonus,” Abad said.

The bill also seeks to bridge the gap between the pay of employees in the public sector with their counterparts in the private sector.

Abad said under the bill, the lowest salary grade, Salary Grade 1, will be raised to about 154 percent of the market, while the highest salary grade belonging to the President will be about 70 percent of the market.

Government compensation in the average is estimated to increase by 45 percent and should be around 84 percent of private sector pay at the end of the four tranches, Abad said. The average government pay now is 55 percent of the market rate.

Abad said under the bill, the new compensation level for all salary grades will be at least 70 percent of the market; there will be no salary overlaps; and the link between pay and performance will be strengthened.

“The structure of the adjustment should temper the cost of benefits (i.e. GSIS premiums and PhilHealth contributions) and allow for higher take home pay, especially for those in the lower salary grades,” Abad added.

Abad said the bill would only increase the salaries of the President and Vice President upon the expiration of their terms. This means President Benigno Aquino III and Vice President Jejomar Binay would not benefit from the salary hike.

Abad also said the current Cabinet secretaries were not included in the hike as delicadeza.

He said the salary hike for members of the House of Representatives and Senate, and of the Cabinet would only take place on July 1, 2016, or after the expiration of the incumbents’ terms.

Because of the enactment of Republic Act 10653, which raised the tax exemption cap to P82,000, the 14th month pay and PBB will be tax-exempt for employees belonging to Salary Grades 1-11  who only receive the tax-exempt 13th month pay, the cash gift and the productivity enhancement incentive (PEI).

Meanwhile, only the 14th month pay will be tax-exempt for employees under Salary Grade 12-16 who receive the existing tax-exempt 13th month pay, cash gift and PEI.

The first tranche of the pay hike will take effect on Jan. 1, 2016, and thereafter until the final tranche in 2019.

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