Weathermen Backed On Pay Plaintlosing

MANILA, Philippines --- The Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage) backed yesterday the call of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) employees for the return of their unpaid benefits.

Courage President Ferdinand Gaite said the weathermen were right in strongly questioning the national government for ridding them of their mandated benefits under the Magna Carta for Science and Technology Personnel, saying weathermen are victims of calamities, too.

"They don't have to physically suffer floods, typhoons and other disasters. Their salaries cannot take them home and are not enough for them to survive the next day," he said.

Gaite said the bureaucracy is losing the best and the brightest employees not out of choice but out of the necessity to support their families.

"We have been witnesses to the diaspora of our scientists, forecasters, meteorologists, geologists and other science and technology personnel to private local and foreign companies because of our own government's policy of cheap labor," he said.

"In PAGASA's case, aside from the low pay, the forecasters have endured constant berating and even ridicule from the President not because of sheer inefficiency but because they have to make do with the agency that is ill-equipped and their technology that is outdated. They have a Modernization

Law and a Magna Carta for employees that have remained unfunded, ultimately useless," added Gaite.

He said the PAGASA case mirrors that of the situation of all the 1.4 million government workers nationwide.

"The issues being raised by the employees of PAGASA are the current climate for all the 1.4 million state workers nationwide. Our basic pay has been frozen to starvation levels and yet the administration has continuously withheld the benefits we used to receive that augments our meager pay. This situation must be addressed or else the government shall face a strong storm brewing from its own backyard," Gaite said.

On Tuesday, PAGASA workers, including weather forecasters, wore black arm bands and hoisted streamers urging the government to resume payment of hazard and other allowances, which were suspended in March.

This resulted to President Benigno Aquino III making a surprise visit to PAGASA's main office in Quezon City in a bid to resolve the problem.

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