Comelec employees demand for ‘equal work, equal pay’

“Our present salary grading is not at par with the prevailing salary schedules for the equivalent positions compared to other workers in government. The disparity ranges from three to five grades.” Comelec Wage Fight Alliance

By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — The rank and file employees of the Commission on Elections demand for an “equal work, equal pay” scheme, which, according to the Comelec Wage Fight Alliance, would address the disparity of their wages as compared to other government agencies.

“Our present salary grading is not at par with the prevailing salary schedules for the equivalent positions compared to other workers in government. The disparity ranges from three to five grades,” Comelec Wage Fight Alliance said in their position paper.

The group added that rank and file employees of Comelec, have, for the longest time, not been receiving the appropriate pay for their labor. “This is a clear double standard,” the paper read, adding that the disparity is most evident during election time where they receive lesser per diem incentives compared to the honoraria of other non-Comelec members of the electoral board.

Mac Ramirez, convenor of the Comelec Wage Fight Alliance, said the conditions of employees have remained this way for the longest time because of the management’s seeming indifference to their welfare. “If they really want to adjust our salaries, they could have done it before,” he told Bulatlat.com.

“For the longest time, there is no union in Comelec that would fight for this issue. It was only through (the Comelec Wage Fight Alliance) that there is a nationwide campaign for Comelec to address this anomaly,” Ramirez said, “There were efforts before but never this organized and this wide.

Comelec Wage Fight Alliance said the commission has adequate funds to implement the proposed wage adjustment given the savings that they have accumulated through the years, citing that the law provides that government agencies must prioritize the wage and other benefits of employees.

Disparity

The Salary Standardization Law 3, a law that stipulates the corresponding salary grades for state employee from top to bottom, provides that government personnel are to “be paid just and equitable compensation in accordance with the principle of equal pay for work of equal value.”

Their experience shows, however, that this is far from reality, Comelec employees said.

For one, a Clerk I position in Comelec only receives the salary stipulated in salary grade 3, while the same position holds no less than salary grade 7 in other government agencies for the same and equal amount of work. Still, in government corporations, financial institutions and constitutional bodies such as the Philippine Senate, a Clerk I receives no less than salary grade 9.

Elections officer I, responsible for a small electoral municipality, and Election officer IV, for capital towns and cities, receive salaries for Salary Grades 12 and 21, respectively. Considering their work load and responsibility, Comelec Wage Fight Alliance said, an election officer position is equivalent to that of a division chief in other line agencies, which receives the salary under Salary Grade 24.

In a separate statement, the group said, the meager salaries of election officers become more evident during election period because their honoraria is computed based on their salary. The electoral incentive they receive is less than that of a member of the Board of Canvassers, which she or he chairs.

Patrick Enaje, a lawyer and an election officer, said in his speech at the recent “Pillars of Rank and File Development – A forum on employees’ wages and benefits,” that there have been proposals to upgrade salaries as early as April 1, 2002. In the said proposal, they requested for the creation of positions for Election Officer V and VI with a salary grade of 23 and 25, respectively. Yet, at present, Enaje said, there remains four positions for election officers.

“This sad reality has even become a source of embarrassment for Comelec election officers, a lot of them lawyers,” Comelec Wage Fight Alliance said in a statement.
Enaje said the Public Attorney’s Office of the Department of Justice has, at the minimum, Salary Grade 25 for its lawyers. “Other offices in other agencies of the government have higher salary grades for lawyer positions,” he said.

“Not one in the whole rank and file of Comelec receives a salary that meets the daily cost of living which, is estimated at around P29,000 ($674) a month,” the group added.

The salary of all casual employees of Comelec, which the group terms as a “great injustice,” is pegged at Salary Grade 1. “Regardless of their position or job description,” the group said, “This is a gross violation of their rights tantamount to involuntary servitude and an unfair labor practice.”

Under Aquino, Brillantes

The group said when Sixto Brillantes Jr. was appointed as chairman of Comelec, they were hopeful that he would implement the much needed reforms in the poll body, considering that he was in a best position to do so, especially with regards salaries and benefits of employees.

Brillantes heads the Strategic Pillar No. 6 of the Comelec Strategy Plan 2011 – 2016, which stipulates that the government would “improve employees’ salary and compensation and establish an employees’ welfare and assistance program to boost their morale,” before 2012.

During the Pillars of Rank and File Development: A forum on employees’ wages and benefits last October 27, Brillantes Jr. pledged support to adjust the salaries of employees as soon as possible. He added that he appreciated the forum. “I like this better compared to when people would whisper to me in the elevator ‘Chairman, are we going to have a bonus?'”

But he received the loudest applause when he told the employees that Comelec would start feeling the effect of the adjustment in their salaries next year. While rank and file employees are happy to hear the news, they said they would “not be lulled into complacency.”

For the Comelec rank and file employees, augmenting the salary and benefits of employees would be Brillantes’s “best legacy” for having “raised the collective morale of six thousand Comelec personnel nationwide by adjusting our salaries.”

Ramirez said their group acknowledges that it is, in fact, part of Comelec’s plan to upgrade their salaries by next year but, “what date is it already today?” he told Bulatlat.com.

“Considering these conditions, we the rank and file employees believe that it is high time to adjust our salary schedule to correct this discrepancy,” the group said. They added that while they support the clamor for the $139 wage increase, “we have to first address the dismal condition of the Comelec rank and file.” ()

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