Teachers’ groups blast proposed pay hike as too small
MANILA, Philippines — Teachers’ groups on Wednesday slammed the pending Salary Standardization Law of 2019 for what they said was yet another round of “stingy” pay hike proposals despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s earlier promises to augment their salaries.
Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) in October called for an across-the-board raise and a “fair system of compensation that is not tied to the Salary Standardization Law” instead of the simplistic and, they said, counterproductive discounts that came with the country’s celebration of National Teachers’ Month.
But two Senate committees on Tuesday pushed for another iteration of the Salary Standardization Law as the solution to their woes. Their proposal was also in line with the Duterte-approved national budget recommendation from the Department of Budget and Management.
“Not only are the amounts too small, it is spread out in more tranches that will even go beyond President Duterte’s term, clearly the president is not keeping his words,” Joselyn Martinez, Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines chairperson, said in a statement.
For the fifth time since 1989, Senate Bill 1219 proposes yet another round of salary increases for government employees, this time in the form of a 23-percent salary raise spread out across four tranches through 2023.
This equates to just a hike of around P1,500 in the monthly salary every year for 92% of lower-position public school teachers, rather than the P10,000 across-the-board raises TDC demanded.
“There are 800,000 teachers, not millions by the way, and all of them are anticipating a pay scheme that recognizes the teachers’ crucial role in our society,” TDC chair Benjo Basas told Philstar.com.
“Teachers and government employees [have] suffered low pay and limited benefits since 1989 when the salary standardization law (SSL 1) was first implemented.”
Duterte has promised to double the teachers’ salaries, later rewording his commitment to a raise that would be “enough to tide them over.”
“What we need is an increase in our overtime pay, special hardship allowance, free medical service and hospitalization, paid study leave and other benefits provided by the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers,” TDC said in a statement in October.
A press statement from the Senate on Tuesday said that the bill was seen to benefit 1.4 government employees under Salary Grade 11 to 19—or 79% of total government employees, including teachers and nurses.
But both groups said that the proposed additions were still too small to support their current circumstances, especially since it is spread out in four tranches.
“Upon the implementation of the salary increase, Teacher I will lose the income tax-exempted status that they have now,” ACT-Philippines said.
The same groups have long been lobbying for salary increases over increasing difficulties in sustaining their livelihood with their current wages.
During International Teachers Day in October, teacher groups held protests and human “30k” formations to protest their minuscule salaries.
Even within the Senate exist legistimate concerns over the availability of government resources to fund such a salary increase over four years.
On the same day, the House of Representatives ratified the bicameral report that approved the aforementioned P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020.
“Paano kami matutulungan nitong makatawid sa pang-araw-araw gayung ‘ni hindi ito sasayad sa sikmura namin? (How will this help us get by when the increase won’t even reach our stomachs?) Bigay-bawi ang sistema, they will be giving us crumbs which the government will only collect back,” said Martinez, whose federation vowed continued protests actions over what they said was a critical issue.
“The president made a promise, we believed, we waited patiently, but in the end, the substantial increase in our salaries was never realized,” Basas said.