Contractual workers in the gov’t push for security of tenure for non-regular employees

For 19 years, Augusto Hernandez (second from right), 51, a person with disability (PWD) has been working as an instructor at the National Vocational Rehabilitation Center (NVRC), an institution that caters to PWDs under the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

The bill proposes to provide security of tenure and civil service eligibility to all non-regular employees who are working continuously in any government agency for at least six months.

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — Working hard but not receiving enough. This is the lament of contractual workers in the government sector. While they work for eight hours with as much work as the regular employees, they do not enjoy the same benefits that the latter receive: no leave incentives, no 13th month pay and no security of tenure.

For 19 years, Augusto Hernandez, 51, a person with disability (PWD) has been working as an instructor at the National Vocational Rehabilitation Center (NVRC), an institution that caters to PWDs under the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

He is a MOA-worker or hired through a memorandum of agreement (MOA), a term for contractual workers in the government sector. Some are also called as job orders, emergency hired and contract of services workers and are also working under the same conditions.

Contractual employees, like Hernandez, are calling for the passage of the House Bill No. 7415 or Security of Tenure for Non-Regular Employees in Government Act of 2018 filed by the Makabayan bloc last month.

The bill proposes to provide security of tenure and civil service eligibility to all non-regular employees who are working continuously in any government agency for at least six months.

Finding ways to make both ends meet

On International Workers’ Day, contractual workers like Hernandez added their voice to the thousands of workers who took the streets calling for a salary increase and an end to all forms of contractualization. They slammed the recently signed Executive Order 51 of President Duterte, which, they said, legalizes contractualization.

At least three presidents have gone before Duterte but Hernandez is still not a regular employee. He has three children, all of whom are still going to school. From a monthly salary of P6,000 in 1999 ($116) he is now receiving P13,000 ($251), an amount which is way below the living wage for a family of five.

Ibon Foundation estimates that the family living wage for a family of five amounts to P973 ($19) a day.

Hernandez was also a gold medalist in the Philippine Paralympic National Games in 2013 and 2016.

With his meager salary, Hernandez said, they are forced to scrimp on their daily food expense to make both ends meet. To save, he said, his daughter would bring him lunch at work which is near their residence. His wife also makes sure that the food she cooks for lunch would be enough to feed them through dinner.

Although PWDs enjoy a 20 percent discount, he said, his salary is still not enough, especially since prices went up with the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law.

Government employees also joined the May 1 rally in Manila.

“We try to extend our food. The leftovers from dinner are being served for breakfast; the leftovers from lunch serve as dinner,” said Hernandez who is the sole breadwinner in the family.

Read: ‘Permanent contractuals’ in government increasing

Jonathan Judin, 38, has been a utility man at the National Poverty Commission (NAPC) for five years. He was hired under contract of services (COS), which is renewable every year, and receives P17,000 ($328) a month. He lives at San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, two hours away from their office in Quezon City. To save time and energy Judin decided to rent a boarding house near NAPC. “We need to take care of our health too,” he told Bulatlat in an interview.

Judin is a diligent employee. He said if there is work needed to be done during weekends, he would do it and skip a day with his family in Bulacan. However, his overtime on weekends is not monetized but off-set to another rest day.

“The management has monetized the overtime of the drivers. Why not monetize ours? What is the difference? We both do our respective tasks,” he lamented.

“Our superior said that there’s no budget for overtime pay. It’s a lame excuse. Something could be done to source the budget for it,” he added.

Judin is not only a utility man, he is also an electrician; he does carpentry and other special projects that the management tells them to do. “We have the most work in the office,” he said in Filipino.

Organizing their ranks

Roxanne Fernandez, 33, said contractual workers are not only exploited but also oppressed. Because they are not regular employees and not entitled to form a union, contractual workers tend to be fearful of management. But Fernandez, who has been a bookkeeper at NAPC for three years, is not daunted. In 2016 she fought for the lowering of the COS’s withholding tax from 13 percent to three percent.

She learned about the correct withholding tax computation when she went to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR). “I went to the office and told the management that the deducted percentage was incorrect but they did not believe me,” she said. But she stood her ground, researched about it, wrote letters to the Revenue District Office so she could back her claim. They won eventually, as they were able to press the BIR to release revenue memorandum circular no. 130-2016 which clarifies the applicable withholding tax of non-professionals hired under COS and job order basis.

Fernandez is also the founding president of the Contacts of Services Employees Association (COSEA) in NAPC. She said she couldn’t accept that her co-workers are being oppressed. “You hear and see every day how the COS is being treated, it’s infuriating,” she said. That is why they formed COSEA to fight for their rights.

She said, like the DSWD, majority of NAPC’s employees are non-regulars. There are 150 employees and only 45 are regular employees and the rest are COS. She said half of the COS employees are now members of COSEA.

COSEA also fought to make their contracts be renewed after a year instead of every six months. They also fought for their salary increases. She said when Executive Order 201 or salary standardization law in 2016 was signed by President Benigno Aquino III and was implemented, they were left behind. It was only this year, when the third tranche of the salary standardization was implemented that their salaries were upgraded to the same level as their counterparts in other government agencies.

“Napako yung sweldo namin sa 2012 habang yung iba ine-enjoy na yung salary increase nila (Our salaries were pegged while others enjoyed increases.),” she said.

Now they are pushing for the passage of HB 7415 for the welfare of all non-regular workers in the government.

She said it is about time to push for such a law because there are COS employees in NAPC who started working in the agency since it started. “If NAPC is already 20 years, there are also COS employees for 20 years,” she said.

The coverage of HB 7415 covers national government agencies, local government units, state universities and colleges (SUCs) and government-owned and controlled corporations and all other government institutions. ()

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