Group calls for sufficient funding for poll workers’ pay, well-being

Published September 29, 2021, 12:34 PM

by Merlina Hernando-Malipot

Bracing for one of the most challenging elections in recent history, a group of education workers called for enough funding that will help ensure sufficient pay for teachers who will serve in the 2022 elections.

(Photo from ACT Philippines)

“As teachers will be at the frontlines of possibly one of the most precarious elections in recent years, we are calling on our legislators to not be too tightfisted and allot significant amount for poll workers’ compensation and for the establishment of safety and protective measures,” Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines Secretary General Raymond Basilio.

Members of ACT trooped to the House of Representatives on Sept. 28 as Congress deliberated the 2022 budget for the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

ACT lamented the “budget cut” for Comelec whose proposal cut by P15-billion despite “clear indications” that the coming elections will be challenging due to the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) situation in the country.

Teachers, who serve as Board of Electoral Inspectors (BEIs), anticipate more perilous conditions amid the raging pandemic and worsening socio-economic crises and are demanding better pay and welfare guarantees for poll workers, ACT said.

“These are key to strengthening efforts to ensure a proper, peaceful, and safe conduct of the 2022 elections,” Basilio added.

Since early this year, ACT has been reaching out to Comelec to ensure substantial raises to poll workers’ honoraria and allowances.

The group is also pressing for COVID-19 health preventive measures and other support mechanisms in light of the present crisis besetting the country.

(Photo from ACT Philippines)

In particular, ACT is seeking for the following tax-exempt compensation for BEIs: P10,000 for Chairpersons of the Electoral board; P9,000 for Electoral Board Members; P8,000 for DepEd Supervisor Official (DESO); P7,000 for Support staff; and P3,000 travel allowance for those in urban areas or city proper and P5,000 for those in rural areas.

ACT is also pushing for the provision of P2,500 food allowance; P500 hazard pay; and Overtime pay for services rendered in excess of 24 hours on election day.

(Photo from ACT Philippines)

The Department of Education (DepEd) and the Comelec previously announced their shared intent to raise the pay of teacher-poll workers.

However, ACT noted that a “massive cut” in the Comelec’s funding proposal threatened the fulfillment of the said announcement.

Citing Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez, ACT noted that electoral boards will be the “most affected” by the budget cut.

“It’s always those on the ground who suffer the effects of paltry funding and poor planning, despite being the very backbone of facilitating the people’s exercise of their right to vote,” Basilio said. “Our commitment and service to the country during this important day should not come at the cost of our own well-being, like before,” he added.

For ACT, teacher-poll workers deserve to be “properly compensated and their well-being taken care of, especially as it is well-known how severely overworked, underpaid, and undersupported they are in their own profession.”.

ACT expressed hope that what happened in the 2019 mid-term elections – where BEIs faced considerable problems such as insufficient pay and allowances plus taxes, uncompensated overtime of poll workers for up to 48 hours, health and safety concerns – will not happen again.

Thus, the group urged legislators to “exhaust their powers and correct the poor funding allocation” in the 2022 national budget.

“As duly elected officials themselves—with not a few vying to be reelected—we expect our legislators to utilize the power given to them by the people to address all the issues concerning the 2022 elections,” Basilio said.

“It should be in their interest to ensure the welfare of election frontliners as a crucial measure to ensure the conduct of the coming national elections,” he added.

(Photo from ACT Philippines)