Akbayan Rep. Ibarra “Barry” Gutierrez III
A privilege speech delivered during the Plenary Assembly by Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez on Monday, January 26, 2015.
Mr. Speaker and distinguished members of this August Chamber:
I rise today in defense of the rights and welfare of our public and private sector employees of our country who, despite their remarkable contribution in our national economy, continue to suffer from unjust labor policies and practices, which infringe on their constitutionally-protected rights to engage in associational activities and to petition the government on matters relating to their rights and welfare.
Increasingly, the right of the workers to bargain with their employers through labor unions are under threats, particularly among workers employed in Government-owned and Controlled Corporations (GOCCs) and Government Financial Institutions (GFIs), effectively stifling their voices in the shaping of decisions that will affect the terms and conditions of their employment.
Much of the issue is seen to have emerged from the promulgation of Executive Order No. 7 in 2010 and Republic Act No. 10149 in 2011. These measures, which, while aimed to increase the efficiency of the GOCCs to make them more competitive with the private sector and set up a just and reasonable wage and benefits system, have failed miserably to secure the rights and welfare of the employees. For it has taken away the paramount empowerment of the workers in bargaining for a better and improved working terms and conditions.
Prior to the approval of RA 10149, the public workers enjoy the rights to engage in a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the government on matters relating to their remuneration and benefits system. The process serves a higher purpose of creating an avenue where the workers can share their opinions and voice towards resolving conditions of unrest and dissatisfaction among them on their working conditions.
There is reason to believe that RA 10149 was conceived in a grand vista that aims to strike a balance between making the GOCCs competitive and efficient while ensuring that the workers’ rights and welfare are not sacrificed. For sure, this was a daunting task, but it must be done. For years, we have witnessed the GOCCs tighten their belt and aim for efficiency, the government has freed itself from liabilities incurred by non-performing government companies and it had radically curbed the excessive perks and bonuses enjoyed by the officials in these companies.
But while it has built successes in these arena, it, unfortunately, appears to have failed in securing the welfare of the average employees.
Frequently, the CBA acts as a public forum for the routine determination and resolution of adverse labor actions imposed by a GOCC, GFI or any other public-private employer through arbitrated negotiations resulting to agreements that are agreeable to both workers and employers.
The promulgation of RA 10149, however, had led to the anomalous erosion of this time-honored practice in resolving labor disputes and securing the rights and welfare of our
hardworking public workers. Further, it has also failed to address the unresolved unfair labor practices and disputes surrounding negotiations and arrangements of the terms and condition of employment.
In Duty Free Philippines Corporation (DFPC), the campaign for a rational and just salary and benefits system is still a long way. The present salaries received by the company’s employees are based on an outdated salary structure, which was approved by the Department of Tourism (DoT) in 1997. Entry level salaries were updated from time to time based on the minimum wage recommended by the National Wage Board, which, unfortunately, resulted to a distortion of salaries of the incumbent employees and demoralization.
While the salary grades implemented within the company is based on the private sector system, positions were not duly assessed by the proper agencies such as the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and/or the Civil Service Commission. Hence, they are not provided with the proper salary grades and job grades consistent with the government’s system. The situation was further complicated by the creation of the Governance Commission of the GOCCs, which hindered the transition process of the company and its employees to the public sector system. To date, the Organizational Structure and Staffing Pattern (OSSP) is still to be acted upon by the GCG, much to the prejudice to the employees.
Employees assigned at the Duty Free stores are even worse-off. They are bound to render forty-two (42) hours of work per week compared to the mandated forty (40) hours per week for government employees. The extra two (2) hours of work remain unpaid. Same goes with the night differential provided for in government standards of payment for night differential. Current night differential enforced by DFPC is from 10pm to 6am while under the government standard it should be from 6pm to 6am the next day.
This unfair salary grade and position classification system was further compounded by the discontinuation of the traditional benefits previously enjoyed by the company employees with the implementation of the Executive Order (EO) No. 7 and subsequently RA 10149. The Corporate Incentive Program that used to augment the low wages and alleviate the distortion within the salary system of the company has been put to an end.
In Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), the traditional benefits granted to the MWSS officials and employees since 1987, even prior to the passage of the Salary Standardization Law (RA 6758) and the Water Crisis Act (RA 8041), were discontinued despite both laws’ provisions guaranteeing their non-diminution. These benefits include:
1. Mid-Year Financial Assistance (FA) (1 mo. gross) – Granted on May 21, 1987 (B.R. No. 90-87)
2. Bigay Pala (4,000 or 50% of basic w/c ever is greater – Granted on Sept. 24, 1987 (B.R. No. 216-87)
3. Meal/Medical Allowance (2,500/year)-Granted on March 6, 1980(BR No. 48-80)
4. Productivity Bonus – Granted on Oct. 29, 1987 (B.R. No. 246-87) & reiterated on Nov. 18, 1987 (B.R. No. 267-87)
5. Year-End F.A. – Granted on Nov. 18, 1987 (B.R. No. 267-87)
6. Longevity Pay – Granted on Jan. 31, 1972 (B.R. No. 14-72)
7. Rice Allowance –
8. Hazard Pay
9. CNA Incentive
10. Amelioration Allowance (AA) – equivalent to 10% of Basic Pay
12. Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) – equivalent to 40% of Basic Pay (LOI 97)
13. Representation Allowance and Transportation Allowance (RATA)
Further, these benefits/allowances were listed under Exhibit F of the Concession Agreement (CA) between MWSS and private concessionaires Maynilad Water Services, Inc. (MWSI) and Manila Water Company, Inc. (MWCI). Under Article 6, sub-paragraph 6.1.3 of the CA, which was approved by then President Fidel V. Ramos, the above-mentioned benefits are insulated from any form of diminution. Despite these legal guarantees, however, these benefits were unceremoniously discontinued.
To date, Item Nos. 1 to 6 and RATA had a pending case before the Supreme Court under GR No. 195105, while Rice Allowance was filed before the QC-RTC for injunction, the AA and COLA has a pending appeal to the COA.
In the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), benefits that were duly approved by the MIAA Board of Directors, and were being enjoyed for more than 5 years, were stopped upon issuances of GCG and COA. These benefits include:
1. Grant of mid-year bonus, Christmas bonus, anniversary bonus and birthday bonus;
2. Establishment of Provident Fund with Php. 40.0 M seed capital;
3. Signing and Registration of the 1st and 3rd Collective Negotiation Agreements (CNA)
4. Payment of the AME-COLA back payment from 01 July 1989 up to 15 July 1999; and
5. Grant of CNA incentives
Beyond its financial impacts to the workers, the discontinuation of these benefits were done in complete disregard of the fact that these benefits were products of a collective negotiations agreement (CNA) between the workers and the management of MIAA. The CNA was a mechanism provided by law for public workers to process grievances and matters relating to their rights and welfare in a timely and agreeable manner. By rendering the CNA inutile, the government, in effect, has contravened the right of the labor unions to freedom of speech and the right to engage with the employers in coming up with decisions affecting them.
This routine disregard of the CNAs and CBAs due to the GCG issuances and opinions are also apparent in various other GOCCs, as follows:
1. Philippine Port Authority (PPA) – The benefits received by the employees for at least five (5) years that had approval from their Board of Directors, which are products of
collective negotiations, were stopped, including their traditional benefits composed of mid-year bonus, Christmas bonus, Anniversary bonus, Financial Assistance, Year End
Christmas package, etc.
2. Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) – Benefits received by the employees that were mandated by their Charter, approved by
Congress and the President of the Philippines, were not implemented since 2013.
3. Clark International Airport Corporation (CIAC) and Clark Development Corporation (CDC) – Benefits received by the employees, which were enshrined by their CBA with the management, have been stopped altogether.
A significant reduction in their salaries and the major cut-off in their traditional benefits gave to a rise in financial dislocation among the employees. This while ignoring the legal bounds it had overstepped to the prejudice of the workers.
The impetus behind the continuation and spread of these unfair labor practices and labor policies was set forth by RA 10149, which fails to set out a provision requiring the public employers to bargain with their employees, particularly on the economic issues relating to their jobs such as concerns on wages, hour of work and other legal rights. This turnaround in the practice of collective bargaining has a far-reaching impact that could affect the 38 million members of the labor sector and it threatens the established bargaining relationships of the 34,320 labor unions in the country.
With the significant weakening of the workers’ right to bargain, the forgotten working class, who are the vigorous mobilizers of our economy, will be exposed to a multitude of unjust labor practices such as indiscriminate layoffs, unfair salary benefits and position classification system and unsatisfactory terms and conditions of employment. This is a huge step backwards in our quest to secure the lives of our hardworking public and private sector employees of our country, thus, creating a greater sense of urgency about the need for a legislative solution.
I stand today to urge the distinguished members of this Chamber to lead the charge in ensuring that the right of workers to collective bargaining is reverted back to them and to make certain that this will not be unduly sidestepped in the future.###