No real pay hike for science workers under proposed bill

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THOUSANDS of science employees in the government will not feel effects of increase in salary once a bill on standardization of salary of government employees is passed.

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In a survey done by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), 4,850 or 88.42 percent of the 5,485 science and technology workforce will not rejoice over passage of the proposal, which only threatens to repeal Republic Act (RA) 8439 or the Magna Carta benefits for science and technology workers.

RA 8439 was crafted to give additional benefits to science and technology employees in the government.

Ironically, on the first year of the implementation of the salary increase, some 98.72 percent of science and technology personnel will even get pay cuts.

This is because of some provisions in the Salary Standardization Law of 2015 (SSL 2015) that seem poised to repeal Magna Carta benefits in exchange for a four-year staggered salary hike.

As such, United DOST Employees Association members are strongly opposing SSL 2015 provisions, particularly Sections 8, 13 and 20.

Both House Bill 6268 and Senate Bill 2671 contain these provisions, which, according to the association, are disadvantageous to DOST employees.

Section 8 says, “Magna Carta are the benefits authorized for specific officials and employees under MC laws that may be categorized in the Total Compensation Framework in accordance with the guidelines, rules and regulations to be issued by Department of Budget and Management (DBM).”

Sen. Ralph Recto, chairman of the Senate Committee on Science and Technology, said this means that Magna Carta benefits may be folded into the new salary rate.

The SSL 2015 also gives power to DBM to determine which benefits under the Magna Carta could be scrapped.

Aside from this, the bill takes away the power of the consultative councils, departments and officials who are authorized to issue implementing rules and regulations of Magna Carta benefits.

“The proposed increase in salary of the SSL 2015 will amount to nothing if they take away our MC benefits,” Joy Lazcano, president of the Science and Technology Information Institute Employees Association, said.

According to him, a salary grade 13 will only get P3,700 in salary increase but will lose more than P5,000 in Magna Carta benefits.

He said there is really an attempt to scrap the Magna Carta benefits through Section 20, which states, “All laws, decrees, orders, rules or regulations or parts thereof inconsistent with the provisions of this Act are hereby repealed, amended or modified accordingly. All laws inconsistent with this Act such as but not limited to Presidential Decree 1638, Republic Act 4670, RA 6686, RA 7160, RA 7305, RA 8439, RA 8441, RA 8551, RA 9173 and RA 9433 are hereby amended.”

The Magna Carta for S&T workers was signed into law in 1997 to give additional incentives to S&T workers and counter effects of brain drain in the country.

RA 8439 provides S&T workers monthly subsistence and laundry allowance, as well as hazard and longevity pays.

It was fully implemented only recently as DOST agencies sourced from their savings to be able to provide such benefits.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration’s Philippine Weathermen Employee Association president Ramon Agustin says the provision to repeal RA 8439 will threaten the S&T workers’ economic well-being.

“The law has been in existence since 1997 but was only funded through GAA [General Appropriations Act] only recently. But now [we are]on the verge of returning back to the old days when we virtually begged for funding. We cannot afford to go back to this dark past. We will absolutely oppose this provision to protect our rights,” Agustin said.

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