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October 11, 2010 / whyhansdantes

Postal workers in the Philippines protest allowance delays

*This article has been published on UPIU, September 13, 2010. This is a news feature concerning the plight of the employees of the Philippine Postal Corporation (Philpost), particularly on their delayed allowances. The lead was changed in compliance with the suggestion from the UPIU mentor, and some dangling or unclear words and statements were also revised due to some comments of classmates. Nevertheless, the story seems to have been well-received.

A steadfast statue of a mailman stands in front of the Manila Central Post Office, headquarters of the Philippine Postal Corporation (Philpost)

Postal workers in the Philippines protest allowance delays

 

By Hans Joshua Dantes

Ronnie Oliveros has been working in the Marikina Central Post Office for 15 years. As a casual employee, he earns less than the average mailman, leaving his family of five to make do with so little.

Yet, with his gasoline allowance running out, how does he keep the vehicle running? He ends up borrowing money, if not spending from his own earnings for fuel.

“We do it everytime; it’s just too lacking, and we’re only trying to make ends meet,” said Oliveros.

Kids whining for their allowances is one thing – but the analogy seems inappropriate for Oliveros, one of the more than 12,000 employees of the Philippine Postal Corporation, a Government-Owned and Controlled Corporation (GOCC).

In spite of the controversies concerning the many allegedly overpaid executives of several GOCC’s, including Philpost, members of the Postal Employees Union of the Philippines (PEUP) still find difficulty in getting their demands met by the corporation, particularly on the issue of their delayed benefits and allowances, such as for clothing, rice, productivity, and gasoline, amounting to more than Php 6,000 per employee.

Delayed and Inadequate Gasoline Allowance

Many from the lower ranks – those who deliver the mail – find the gasoline allowance to be one of the most problematic, given the rampant oil price hikes in the Philippines. Compared to other allowances, the gasoline allowance of Php 1,200 a month is an urgent need in carrying out their tasks.

In practice, however, the allowance is given on a “staggered” basis, with delay gaps ranging from one to four months. Employees began receiving allowances early in September, though it was supposedly just the compensation for July. The last time they had their hands on allowances was on June, some even receiving only half of what was the delayed due – or less.

“We received one last June, but it was very inadequate – only around Php 400,” said Oliveros

The assumption in Philpost is a regular spending of two liters of gasoline per day for every mailman. But Efimaco Maminta, a regular in the same post office, doesn’t even consider the full allowance as adequate.

“Even if we assume using up only 1 ½ liters, you’ll have to multiply the Php 43 per liter for 22 days. Our 1,200 pesos will not suffice. Sometimes, the costs would even increase to Php 44 per liter,” said Maminta.

Like Oliveros, Maminta also borrows for his fuel money from time to time. As a regular, Maminta earns only slightly more than Oliveros.

Said Maminta: “Of course, by the time the delayed allowance comes, we’ll have to pay for the debt plus interest.”

Philpost answers that they can and will release compensations only as soon as sufficient funds come in.

“It is not denied; we will still give it to them – only that it is delayed because of lack of funds. It is the obligation of the corporation to its employees,” said Philpost Director Numeriano Dayrit.

The decline in the corporation’s profits is attributed to many factors, including the franking privilege of government offices and congressmen. As a government corporation, Philpost also has a mandate of “missionary service,” operating at prices lower than private competitors and continuing service even to remote and unprofitable places. Finally, the advent of new technologies such as the internet and cellphones lessened the need for postal mail, further reducing Philpost’s earnings.

“80 percent of the total revenue goes to salaries and wages. Then there’s the other 20 percent left for operations, which is not enough to modernize the postal system,” said Alvin Fidelson, Philpost Media Office.

Rationalization

One solution eyed by Philpost administrators is a rationalization program which will trim the number of employees, thereby reducing the number of salaries shouldered by the corporation.

Both parties acknowledge the facts, though the union heaves the blame on the higher-ups.

“We both know that the corporation’s revenues are falling, but we don’t see from them any initiative or new projects for income generation,” said Quirino Collada, PEUP Metro Manila Chariman.

Collada also believes that should rationalization push through, the weight will fall not on the rank-and-file but rather on the allegedly overpaid postmaster generals and assistants, as well as the directors. Such offices earn as much as Php 90,000, and many have held the posts for so long a time.

Last September 8, President Benigno Aquino III has issued Executive Order No. 7, suspending all allowances, bonuses and other incentives of executives in government corporations until the year’s end. The order has also created a task force for reviewing compensation in the corporations.

For now, while systems are being fixed and GOCC heads are being investigated, these postal workers will still have to deal with the delays. For now, as they put it, they will still have to make ends meet.

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