President Aquino receives early salary increase

N.B. – This was published in Asian Correspondent (August 9, 3:45 p.m.) where I write a column (Philippine Fantasy).

Given my work as a faculty member of the University of the Philippines (UP), I belong to the country’s more than 300,000 public school teachers. And since the latter are classified as government employees, our compensation is determined by Republic Act No. 6758, popularly known as the Salary Standardization Law (SSL).

Since its enactment in 1989, the SSL’s salary schedule has been revised through the years. It consequently provides salary increases to government employees. Past and present wage hikes, however, were perceived to be “anti-poor” as they were mainly percentage increases which have failed to correct the wide salary gap since 1989.

On the issue of wage increase, it appears that President Benigno S. Aquino III got his ahead other government employees. If media reports were to be believed, his first paycheck amounted to PhP95,000 (US$2,112.52) for the month of July (his first month of office). This means that he is already covered by Executive Order (EO) No. 900 which implements “the second tranche of the modified salary schedule for civlian personnel and the base pay schedule for military and uniformed personnel in the government.”

It is not surprising for organized public school teachers therefore to make an issue out of the President’s monthly salary. Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Secretary-General France Castro said, “Just the other day, President Noy was very proud about his first paycheck. We noticed that the amount was already adjusted. When we received our monthly salary last July 24, 2010, the amount was still the same. It did not yet reflect the second tranche of increase. Isn’t this unfair?”

At UP, the same case applies as faculty members are yet to receive the salary adjustment as contained in National Budget Circular No. 524 of the Department of Budget and Management dated June 23, 2010. I should know. Just like other faculty members, I got my payslip for August early this month.

Had Aquino received only the first tranche of the modified salary schedule as contained in Executive Order No. 811, his gross monthly income would have been PhP82,400 (US$1,832.33), or PhP12,600 ($280.19) less.

But more than Aquino getting his salary increase ahead of other government employees, the fact remains that the expected adjustment in salaries of government employees is still uneven. Drivers and street sweepers (who belong to Salary Grade 1-1) will have their monthly salary adjusted from PhP6,862 (US$152.59) to PhP7,575 (US$168.45). A public school teacher may be a bit better off as they belong to a higher salary grade (SG 11-1), but their increase is minuscule as their monthly income will be adjusted from PhP14,198 (US$315.72) to PhP15,649 (US$347.99).

If the Aquino administration were serious about making government salaries more equitable, it should review the current salary schedule and ensure that those who have less will have more. Percentage increases, after all, only benefit those who have already higher incomes.

The powers-that-be should therefore support various bills pending in Congress that seek to provide legislated wage hikes for workers in both the private and public sectors. If the new administration wants to be pro-poor, it should start with adjusting salaries to levels that could provide for more decent living for majority of Filipinos.

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