SBMA management supports workers’ pay hike, but asks for patience

SBMA employees urge Malacañang to approve the implementation of the Salary Standardization Law.

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — The top management of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) said it supports employees’ call to implement the Salary Standardization Law (SSL) in the agency, but asked that workers agitating for the long-delayed salary adjustments be more patient for the petition to run its course.

SBMA Chairman Roberto Garcia said in a dialogue with employees here on Monday that his office sympathizes with the call by rank-and-file workers to implement the SSL, but is not in a position to implement an increase for some 3,000 employees without any approval from President Aquino.

“The bottom line is, we have to get the approval of the President,” Garcia explained.

“H’wag natin pangunahan ang Pangulo. That could jeopardize the position of the SBMA and the increase we’ve been fighting for in the last three years,” Garcia added.

Garcia pleaded for more patience from the SBMA workforce, as some employees wore black armbands on Monday as a sign of protest against the delayed salary adjustments.

The employees also conducted a candlelight vigil in front of the SBMA main office on Monday night to further express their sentiments.

The employees said that their pay rates set in 2008 have remained way below the standards prescribed by Executive Order No. 76 that was signed by President Aquino in April 2012 and that their salaries are 55 percent lower than their counterparts in other GOCCs and LGUs.

Garcia, however, assured the employees that the SBMA management supports both the request for a 10 percent salary hike and the petition for salary adjustments under the SSL, and that these have already been filed before the proper offices.

“The request for a 10 percent increase has been on the President’s desk for some time now, and he has already called for five meetings, but there have been (inevitable) delays. Last week, the sixth meeting that was called to settle this issue was also cancelled,” he added.

The SBMA official also asked employees to follow the proper procedure and to respect the President’s office which is to give the green light for the salary adjustment.

He revealed that the SBMA has already allocated P400 million in the 2015 budget for the implementation of the SSL.

“Some people say that I am against the implementation of salary adjustments for the employees, but if I were against it, I wouldn’t have that budget approved,” Garcia stressed.

Noting that the petition for salary increase had been filed in 2011, Garcia explained that that his administration had approached the problem by first improving the financial capability of the agency to implement the increase.

“We couldn’t have afforded it in 2011 because we had losses of about P8 billion. But now that we have improved our financial position, then we’re pushing for the salary standardization,” he added.

The SBMA chairman also revealed that his office has already secured recommendations for the retroactive implementation effective January 2013 of the 10 percent pay increase for SBMA employees.

Both the Commission on Audit and the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel came out last week with legal opinions allowing the proposed increase under the SSL and under BCDA rates but with the approval of the President, he added.

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