By Samuel P. Medenilla, March 12 2019; Business Mirror

Image Credit to Philippine Star

Government employees are becoming restless as the delay in the approval of the 2019 budget would also prolong the grant of the last tranche of their scheduled wage increase.

In an interview, Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage) National President Ferdinand Gaite criticized both houses of Congress for prolonging the approval of the 2019 budget.

“We condemn this delay in the budget since it also hinders the implementation of the wage increase,” Gaite told the BusinessMirror in an interview.

Gaite is referring to fourth and final phase of the Salary Standardization Law (SSL), which the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) earlier said was supposed to take effect during the first week of February.

Out of the 2.4 million public sector employees, the labor leader said, 1.4 million employed in national agencies and state universities and colleges (SUC) rely on the 2019 General Appropriations Act (GAA) for funding to get the last part of the SSL.

He said the remaining million government employees are employed by local government units (LGU) and government-owned and -controlled corporation (GOCC).

Gaite noted both LGUs and GOCCs have their own source of funding and can implement the SSL even without the GAA.

Courage issued the statement after Sen. Panfilo Lacson said over the weekend that the government will have to operate under a reenacted budget up to August due to negotiations over the provisions of the 2019 GAA.

Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK) General Secretary Annie Geron said deferring the SSL implementation to the third quarter of 2019 is “unacceptable” since government workers need it to cope with the rising cost of living.

“Amid rising prices of basic goods and services, even the small [pay] increase will help [workers],” Geron said.

Gaite said they estimate even the lowest ranking government employee will get a wage increase of “less than P500” under the SSL.

Aside from postponing the SSL, Courage and PSLINK also expressed concern on the possible effect of the delay in the approval of the budget on public service.

If the government will continue to operate on a reenacted budget, Gaite said, the government will not be able to hire additional workers to augment its services.

For her part, Geron said this will make it more difficult for the government to implement much-needed additional programs especially for health, education and social services.

“For unions like PSLINK, the issue is not only on the issue of wage but on the sufficiency of funds for public service,” Geron said.