Government employees are also human beings

After Yolanda - pic for website post

Four months after Typhoon Yolanda, government workers feel neglected and public services are still in disarray. From administrative personnel to teachers and health workers, public sector employees are facing high expectations amid precarious working conditions and lack of government support. They have to cope with their own loss and deprivation even as they are expected to deliver quality public services and rebuild the communities they serve.

Early this month, PSLINK published a photo-report entitled “Government employees are also human beings” focused on the plight of government employees and its impact to public services after Yolanda. You can download the report through the link below:

Photo report – Post-Typhoon Yolanda

Legislator delivers privilege speech highlighting plight of government workers Post-Typhoon Yolanda

privilege speech - govt employees are also human beings mar 10 2014

Honorable Leah Paquiz, ANG NARS Party-list congressional representative, delivered the speech below yesterday (March 10, 2014) at Congress highlight the plight of government employees months after Typhoon Yolanda caused massive destruction in Visayas. The speech is based on the Photo report produced by PSLINK entitled “Government employees are also human beings.”

 

Privilege Speech of Cong. Leah Paquiz

Mr. Speaker, my distinguished colleagues, I stand here today to bring before this august body the present deplorable situation of our government employees in the areas affected by typhoon Yolanda, Zamboanga siege, Bohol and Cebu earthquake. I stand hereto speak out their sentiments as directed to their respective departments. And, I stand here today to bridge their pleas and petitions before all of you, in the hope that they will be recognized and remedied.

Four months after the typhoon Yolanda surge, we together with our partner the – PUBLIC SERVICES LABOR INDEPENDENT Confederation visited the Visayas Region to assess the prevailing situation thereat. We were appalled when we were confronted with numerous concerns raised by the government employees: OPPRESSED! ABUSED! And NEGLECTED! These are their cries.

Yes Mr. Speaker, government employees feel OPPRESSED with how the government is treating them. Allow me to cite a concrete example – The Civil Service Commission or the CSC issued on November 18, 2013, Memorandum Circular No. 23, series of 2013with subject: “ALTERNATIVE WORK ARRANGEMENT FOR GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES AFFECTED BY TYPHOON YOLANDA”.

While the intention of the CSC Memorandum Circular is noble which is to – providethe affected government employees exemption from work, WITH PAY, until such time that their situation normalize; its implementation however defeated its very essence. Unfortunately Mr. Speaker, barely two weeks after the ravaging typhoon, government employees were already obliged to REPORT BACK TO WORK.

Still grieving for their own loss, health workers given their fragile situation, were deployed even if this means walking hundreds of kilometers to get to their assigned work areas.

Government employees in the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center (EVRMC) is the only regional teaching and training hospital in the area and is managed by the Department of Health (DOH). It is strategically located in the middle of Leyte and Samar and is most accessible to the Region VIII population. Because of its proximity to the shoreline, the hospital was severely flooded, its buildings sustained varying degrees of damage, and most of its medical equipment broke down. The hospital also lost power and water when the typhoon hit Tacloban.

One of the hospital personnel reported for work even with the destruction of her house and the lack of transportation. “We have our resident physician an OBGYN,” Aileen says. “She lost her house. She walked all the way to Ormoc City which is 110 kilometers away so that she could bring her son and her husband to safety. Then she reported back for duty.”

Another testimony of Dr. Aileen states: “We have lots of stories of doctors, nurses, personnel, who reported for work because our services were needed for the restoration of power in the hospital. We have a lot of tales of bravery, a lot of tales of heroism among our staff, and indeed I can say that the hospital was resilient because of the staff.”

Mr. Speaker, obviously they answered the call of duty. We saw them attending to the injured, calming panicking children, talking and lifting the spirits of the despairing survivors, doing all they can to assist pregnant women to deliver babies, they improvised and created health kits before attending to their own family needs.

ABUSED! Is the second cry of the government employees. Government employees, Mr. Speaker, are no different from the other people victimized by typhoon Yolanda. And yet, government employees feel that they are being singled-out by the government. They are yet to rebuild their houses- and in order to rebuild or reconstruct their houses, they have to contract a loan with the Government Service Insurance System or GSIS under the guise of HOME Emergency LOAN Program or HELP- before they could be given assistance.

This scheme is made pursuant to GSIS Memorandum Circular No. 006 dated December 27, 2013, wherein a government employee, depending on their years of service, may contract loan with GSIS for a maximum amount of P200,000. This loan is subject to an interest loan rate of 6% and is payable for 10 years.

Matatawag bang tulong sa mga kawani ang pagbubukas ng “housing loan window ng GSIS?” na hanggang P200,000, at babayaran ng 10 taon na may interest na anim na porsyento?

Baon na po sa utang ang mga kawani! Kung mayroon pong tinatawag na mapaminsalang “storm surge” ang mga kawani po ay dumaranas ng “debt surge” at ang iba pa nga po ay dumaranas ng “loan tsunami.”

Government employees feel NEGLECTED! They are the last to receive relief assistance/goods, and only when the affected population had all received their own. We did not see government employees queue, instead, what we saw were brave and committed first responders, emergency workers maintaining the lines, helping to bring some orders amidst chaos, we saw government employees holding back their tears, fighting their own fears, forgetting their hunger and weariness. All in the name of public service.

Up to present Mr. Speaker, public services are still in disarray. From administrative personnel to health workers, public sector workers are facing high expectations amid precarious working conditions and lack of government support. They have to cope with their own losses and deprivation even as they are expected to deliver quality public services and rebuild the communities they serve. Four months after, the public sector in still suffering in Visayas. Things are in no way normal, and improvement is hard to find. The streets and offices are filled with debris, homes have not been rebuilt, and under the rubbles are bodies still being discovered.

Mr. Speaker, government employees do not need to be called heroes. Our teachers do not need make-up kits from the Department of Education and the Department of Social Welfare development in their bid to make them feel “good”, they need financial assistance and livelihood programs.

They do not need to compete with the limited space in crowded and improvised evacuation centers, they need the P30,000.00 construction materials kits from the DPWH and DSWD to rebuild their houses or P10,000.00 construction kits to repair their houses.

Mr. Speaker, disasters do not choose their victims, and certainly Yolanda did not spare civil servants, it is therefore unfair to exclude government employees from receiving assistance from the government.

Mr. Speaker government employees in the Visayas are very eager to help in the rehabilitation process, in normalizing the situation. And while they are appealing for their employer which is the government to assist them, they are also calling upon the government to fast track the rebuilding of offices, health facilities and schools. They need supplies and materials replenished the soonest time possible.

Mr. Speaker, the 14,000 teaching and non-teaching personnel in Eastern Visayas are eager to go back once the 3,000 damaged public schools are restored/rebuild. The employees of the National Maritime Polytechnic- the only public maritime training institution in the country and the Department of Science and Technology – Information and Communications Technology Office who are still working in the dark with scarce water supply, and the National Police Commission all want their workplaces operational.

The Northern Iloilo Polytechnic State College which despite being damaged, served as evacuation center of thousands of residents due to oil spill in Estancia Iloilo which contaminated the cost and mangroves posing serious health and environmental hazards to the communities affected want to be back on their feet.

The Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center of the DOH needs their lifelines: water sources and electrical power, their desalination plant restored. Mr. Speaker, all 331 patients of this hospital survived because all 70 health workers worked round the clock, did not leave the hospital before, during and after Yolanda?

Mr. Speaker, the Congress has the power of the purse. Our responsibility does not end upon the approval of the national budget.

It could be recalled that we initiated the House Joint Resolution Number 07 entitled, “House Joint Resolution Extending the Validity of Appropriations Under the Calamity Fund and Quick Response Fund”. This Joint Resolution later became Republic Act Number 10634 on 26 December 2013 whereby the sum of FOURTEEN BILLION SIX HUNDRED MILLION PESOS was appropriate to supplement the General Appropriations Act of 2013 for purposes of augmenting the CALAMITY FUND by ELEVEN BILLION TWO HUNDRED MILION PESOS and the QUICK RESPONSE FUND OF THE DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL WELFARE AND DEVELOPMENT by THREE HUNDRED BILLION FOUR HUNDRED MILLION PESOS.

Part of our duties and responsibilities, as the LEGISLATURE, is to ensure that the budget is disbursed according to the provisions and intention of the General Appropriations Act. The Executive has the obligation not only to inform but also to report periodically to Congress how the budget is spent.

Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues, please join me in constantly reminding the Executive that in addition to the globally generated assistance for the Visayas affected by typhoon and earthquake, the national budget allocated for the rehabilitation and rebuilding must include the government employees like:

Civil servant Pedro Lacandazo, who lost 22 family members which include 3 who worked as English and MSEP teachers;

Lone breadwinner and employee of Fiber Industry Development Authority Rhea Hilda Peru, who still temporary stay at FIDA office;

Joel Campo of the National Maritime Polytechnic, who is working to recover public documents soaked in water and running the NMP dormitory with what is left by the typhoon;

Rowena Estoque, head teacher at San Jose National High School, who make do with what is left of their former home;

NAPOLCOM employee Alicia Pardinas, who barely escaped the house and survived;

Jeremias Gabion, instructor in Northern Iloilo Polytechnic State College.

Dr. Aileen Riel Espina and all the health workers in EVRMC, who never abandoned the hospital and even walked 110 kilometers to provide health service;

Barangay Chairman, Papoose Lantajo, Jr. of San Joaquin, Palo, Leyte, where 800 people died, rescued 20 people but felt he could have saved more lives had the rescue team arrived early;

Nilo Gravoso who teaches at Cirilo Montejo National High School who lost his home that used to be where he stands in this photo and yet expected to do his job properly while struggling to survive;

Teacher Eric John Estoque, who felt that government workers have been left out in the rebuilding process;

Mr. Speaker, this representation fully understands why government employees are grossly dismayed at how government workers are treated during times of crisis. I share their sentiments and take this opportunity to salute all the public sector unions who mobilized their ranks, raised funds, undertake relief operations in order to extend assistance not only to their members but also to other government employees. I commend the Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK), the Confederation of Independent Unions in the Public Sector (CIU), the Philippine Government Employees Association (PGEA) and the largest labor coalition in the country – NAGKAISA who undertook relief operation and counseling to affected government employees and their family members.

Mr. Speaker, the Executive and those tasked to do the rebuilding must always remember the roofless, homeless, jobless and the workers who help in reinvigorating the local economy.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, “Build back better” is impossible without quality public services! “Build back better” is equally impossible without the 1.4 million government employees. The State as the employer must take care of its own employees. GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES ARE HUMAN BEINGS! THEY DESERVE OUR SUPPORT!

Thank you Mr. Speaker.

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PSLINK Mission in Visayas

A team from PSLINK is currently in Visayas for a two-week mission to document participatory school governance practices in pilot schools as part of the LO FTF Country Program, assess the situation in areas affected by Typhoon Yolanda, help set up solidarity centers.

Best practices in pilot schools

The team has spent the past week in Negros Oriental to meet with internal and external stakeholders of pilot schools including school heads, students, teachers, union members, local government officials, parents, and NGO/civil society representatives. The team conducted interviews and meetings to see where the pilot schools are in terms of implementing the reforms under the Basic Education Sector Reform Agenda (BESRA) such as the establishment of functional School Governing Councils (SGCs).

In some schools well functioning SGCs have also improved the workings of teacher unions and associations.

‘’What I know is that with the active involvement of the members of the SGC, the projects and programs of the teachers association are being carried out. They are there to help us,” says Ellen Edrial, president of the Sta. Catalina teachers association, and a member of the SGC.

The success in organizing SGCs varies a lot from school to school. The team will gather related challenges and best practices which can later on serve as basis for the policy recommendations that PSLINK will advocate at the national, regional and local levels. A good example on SGC practices is Sta. Catalina National High School.

‘’Our SGC has grown to what it is today because we really identify problems and solutions together. We always communicate with our stakeholders and share information. What the SGC has done to us should be shared to other schools,’’ says Reyco Belnas, principal of Sta. Catalina National High School.

Sta Catalina SGC mtg Feb 5 2014

Solidarity center to be built

PSLINK, in coordination with the other unions affiliated with the Public Services International, is exploring the possibility of setting up a solidarity center in each of the three main regions of the Philippines. The centers will provide shelter during disasters and will be equipped with a clinic, dormitory, kitchen, toilets and other necessary facilities.

Constancio B. Dael Jr., municipal planning and development coordinator and former president of Siaton Municipal Employees Association, sees the urgent need for such a center.

‘’We don’t have a relief center in the municipality. What we are utilizing are existing structures that do not fit. Like our gymnasium – it has no relief facilities,” he said.

Siaton LGU union mtg Feb 6 2014 1

The centers will be built through the solidarity funds raised by PSI from its union affiliates in different countries. The initiative is seen to underscore the role of quality public services and unions in addressing disasters and climate change.

Tomorrow the team will travel to Tacloban to meet with affiliates and conduct a follow-up assessment. The team will also visit evacuation centers and relocation sites.

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PSLINK LGU leader participates in the World Summit for Local and Regional Leaders in Rabat, Morocco

Bro. Jonathan Jamora, President of the Consolidated Council of the Federation of Local Government Unit Employees under PSLINK, attended the UCLG Congress World Summit for Local and Regional Leaders held in Rabat, Morocco on October 1-4, 2013. He is also the president of the Bislig City Employees Association (BISCEA) in the Philippines and a member of the National Executive Board of PSLINK. The following article is a condensed version of his narrative report regarding his participation to the global summit which he presented during the NEB meeting held in PSLINK last December 23, 2013.  

jon jamora

Through PSLINK I became part of the official PSI delegation to the World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders / 4th United Cities and Local Government (UCLG) Congress held at the Hotel Sofitel, Rabat Morocco on October 1 to 4 2013. PSI was represented by ten (10) unions from developing countries.

On September 30, the day of our arrival, I joined the first PSI Coordination meeting held at the lobby of the Hotel Le Pietre. The meeting which was presided by the PSI General Secretary herself, Ms. Rosa Pavanelli, was attended by the entire PSI delegation to the summit. Each of the local unions shared their experiences, best practices, and future plans during the meeting. After the sharing we were briefed about the program activities and our agenda in the world congress. Ms. Pavanelli told us that UCLG and PSI have a lot in common: we both work for Quality Public Services. There are huge opportunities for cooperation at the international, regional and local levels in order to support access to quality public services.

As we all know, local executives have different priorities. Some defend public services as a public task, others push for outsourcing, privatization and PPPs. PSI seeks to contribute our experiences in the debate and in the meeting with the local officials. PSI also seeks to create new and stronger alliances between those who defend public services.

At the international level, PSI has already been invited to contribute to the GOLD III report UCLG submission to the UN and this was warmly welcomed by the UCLG. PSI’s role is to highlight the views of the working class and our position during the summit. PSI will have a stand at the exhibition booth to visualize the trade unions in the sector. More trade unions are invited to hand out their materials at the stand. The PSI had focused on QPS and trade union rights in public services.

Registration was held on October 1 while the Opening Ceremony was held the next day. His Majesty the King of Morocco Mahamed VI welcomed all the Delegates.

It was followed by the introductory plenary which had as its theme: IMAGINE SOCIETY, BUILD DEMOCRACY. The different speakers discussed and analyzed the major current and future challenges in our era faced by local and regional governments throughout the world. The sessions dealt with the impact of important global shifts that are currently taking place throughout the world, in particular, the effects of political, economic, social and environmental crisis on towns, cities and territories.

The sessions also served as a venue to reflect on the impact of local democracy as well as the contribution of the international municipal movement in the construction of local democracy issues in the 20th century taking into account the impact of the ‘Arab Spring” and the recentralization attempts in various regions.

On the third day, October 3, we went to the ISESCO Building, an hour-ride from the venue, and attended a parallel session with the topic “Promoting Local Economic Development.” Ms. Pavanelli was one of the speakers. The session sought to present local development solutions and their impact in the eradication of poverty. Particular attention was given to the positive results of south cooperation involving local authorities, representatives of social partners and other development actors. Session organizers include the International Labour Organization (ILO), Andalous Fund of Municipalities for International Solidarity (FAMSI), and the UCLG Working on Migration and Co-Development.

On the last day of our activities (October 4), we just stayed in our exhibition stand and observed others. We had some free time in the afternoon which we spent roaming around their “palengke” and buying souvenir items.

Overall, I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to PSLINK for giving me the opportunity to participate in this very important global meeting. It was indeed a rare opportunity to be sent to a country as far away as Morocco and represent my country and union!

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PSLINK organizes BHW NCR leaders’ assembly

PSLINK in partnership with ANG NARS organized a Barangay Health Worker (BHW) leaders’ assembly yesterday at the PSLINK Solidarity Homes to discuss a new bill to promote and protect the rights of BHWs.

The new bill will recognize BHWs as workers and provide them decent employment towards strengthening primary health care in the country.

Around 30 BHWs from different cities in Metro Manila participated in the meeting. Cong. Leah Paquiz of ANG NARS Party-list came to the meeting herself to hear out the concerns of the BHWs.

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Last National Executive Board meeting for 2013

PSLINK has just concluded its 2-day National Executive Board meeting in its National Headquarters.

Leaders from NCR, Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao came to the PSLINK Solidarity Homes for the meeting to discuss the different gains achieved and challenges encountered by the confederation this year.

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BOS @ Cabadbaran

5th National Human Resources for Health (HRH) Policy Forum

PSLINK participated in the 5th National Human Resources for Health (HRH) Policy Forum held on November 6, 2013 at the Manila Hotel with the theme “Moving Forward: Strengthening the Philippine Health Workforce for Universal Health Care.”

The forum provided a venue to discuss efforts related to the implementation of the HRH Master Plan at the agency and organizational levels. It also facilitated exchange of best practices and other relevant information on the Philippine health workforce production, management, and development.

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Among the topics discussed were:

  • Outcome-based Education for HRH
  • Philippine Qualification Framework- ASEAN Qualification Framework for Global Competitiveness
  • HRH Masterplan
  • Review of Local Government Code to Strengthen/Support Achievement of Universal Health Care
  • Philippine Experience in Bilateral Labor Agreements
  • Mapping of Indicators for the National Human Resources for Health Workforce Projections

PSLINK General Secretary Annie Enriquez Geron served as one of the resource speakers during the forum. She presented the PSI Participatory Research on Migration in the Health Sector copies of which were also distributed to the participants.

Held annually, the forum is seen as a means to strengthen partnerships and stakeholder participation in HRH policy development. The event was sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Resources for Health (HRH) Network Philippines.

PSLINK is an active member of the HRH Network.

Boni @ 150 PSLINK mob

PSLINK joined the November 30 mobilization in celebration of Bonifacio Day.

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PSLINK participates in the PSI Meeting on Social Protection for migrant workers

There are now around 232 million international migrants according to the United Nations, majority of whom are migrant workers. Given the trend towards temporary/circular migration models, increasing precariousness of jobs everywhere, and the failure of states to address underdevelopment (particularly of countries of origin) and its underlying structural causes, ensuring access to and portability of social protection for migrant workers has become all the more pertinent.

“When social protection is not available, people struggle to survive,” said Annie Enriquez-Geron, General Secretary of Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK)  as well as Vice President for PSI Asia Pacific Region.

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Day 1 Nov 28 2013 Pictures

“Social protection is necessary for economic development and social justice. We can address the global race to the bottom by pushing for social protection floors and quality public services,” Enriquez-Geron said.

Migrant workers, particularly women and undocumented workers, are often excluded from the coverage of social protection schemes due to nationality or residency restrictions. Even in cases where migrant workers are entitled to some form of social security in their country of employment, they are most likely to lose their accumulated benefits when they return back their origin countries due to non-portability of benefits. Thus, many migrant workers pay into the social security system of their country of employment and yet get nothing in the end.

Other critical issues are the lack of coordination on social security for migrant workers between origin and destination countries and the lack of awareness/information on the right to social security among migrant workers.

It is within this context that PSI held the 2-day Public Service Trade Union Action Planning Meeting on Social Protection for Migrant Workers in Hotel Sylter, Berlin, Germany on November 28-29, 2013.

The meeting’s objectives were to:

  • Strengthen solidarity between public service trade unions in origin and destination countries in promoting migrant workers’ rights and access to quality public services for all;
  • Build a common understanding among public service trade unions of the existing policy frameworks, realities and challenges in ensuring access to social protection for migrant health and social care workers; and
  • Formulate a three-year action plan to be undertaken by public service trade unions in Asia and Europe to ensure access to social protection for migrant health and social care workers.

Around 20 participants including PSI affiliates from countries of origin such as the Philippines, India, and Vietnam, and countries of destination such as Germany, Finland, Norway and Denmark, attended the meeting. The meeting was organized through the collaboration of the ILO and PSI under the EU-funded Decent Work Across Borders Project.

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Day 2 Nov 29 2013 Pictures

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