SSS: Extending social security protection to job order and contractual government employees

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The first half of 2020 has ended but the whole world continues its battle against the invisible enemy. Nothing is stable during Covid-19 crisis as several businesses in the private sector have ceased operations, resulting in thousands of displaced workers. Public utility vehicle operators, drivers, self-employed individuals and repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) also suffer the same fate, and they are pleading for help from the national government. Worst, this global health crisis has caused suffering and death.

While our country is still under public health emergency, the national and local governments have joined forces to exhaust available resources and render full assistance to the public. As a result, government personnel, regardless of employment status—whether regular, contractual or casual, Contract of Service (COS), and Job Order (JO) positions are currently deployed in their work stations. In the exigencies of the service, some of them must physically report for work where their health may be jeopardized by unavoidable virus exposure.

Despite the current health hazards in public service, the government is indeed the most stable organization at this point because all agencies deliver essential services to the public and offer security of tenure to their workers. However, only regular government employees are enjoying the perks of having permanent job security.

Thousands of JO and contractual workers are currently working in national government agencies, government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs), state universities and colleges (SUCs), local government units (LGUs) and local water districts (LWDs). They are directly hired through Contract of Service that often covers a specific period of employment or under a special project. Sadly, they often perform critical tasks and functions similar to permanent government employees but they lack adequate social protection for themselves and their families. Since JOs and contractual workers have no employer-employee relationship, they are not entitled to receive Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) benefits.

During this time of the pandemic, the national government has authorized the release of hazard pay for all permanent government employees, including contractual/casual positions, or those engaged through COS. Also, JOs and contractual workers received their salaries during the community quarantine period as exception to the “no work, no pay” principle. However, these initiatives are not yet equivalent to adequate compensation and what they need right now is a lifetime security for future contingencies.

To extend meaningful social security protection to job order and contractual government workers, the Social Security System (SSS) launched the KaltaSSS-Collect Program in 2013. The pension fund has forged partnerships with national government agencies, GOCCs, LGUs, SUCs and LWDs by signing Memorandum of Agreements (MOAs). Under the KaltaSSS-Collect Program, JOs and contractual workers will be registered as self-employed professionals while government agencies are responsible to remit their monthly premiums to SSS through automatic salary deduction scheme. Regular remittance of SSS contributions will give them various benefits like sickness, maternity, disability, unemployment, and retirement, while their legal beneficiaries can avail themselves of the death and funeral benefits upon the member’s death. They are also qualified to benefit from various SSS loan privileges such as salary, housing, educational, calamity, as well as pension loans for retiree-pensioners.

As of January 31, 2020, there are 1,770 participating agencies under the KaltaSSS-Collect Program. As a result, more than 239,000 JOs and contractual workers are registered self-employed members with contribution collection amounting to P2.6 billion.

As the world continues its battle against this pandemic, people from all walks of life compassionately respond to people in need. The SSS, as a social security institution, also ensures that adequate social protection is given to these “modern day heroes.” We too are committed to deliver fast service and due benefits when members need them.

As we continue to perform our mandate, we encourage all government agencies to ink agreements with SSS for the coverage of their JOs and contractual workers through the KaltaSSS-Collect Program. Linking agencies together is the essence of Bayanihan and demonstrates the real meaning of being a Kabalikat as we never cease to establish strong and stable partnerships with our valuable partners. Timely, reliable, and accurate services are extended not only to SSS members but also to their families, leaving no burden to society in times of contingencies like the current pandemic.

Aurora C. Ignacio is SSS president and chief executive officer.

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