Govt back to 72 hours biweekly

»Inos: 8-hour austerity during payday Fridays
Acting governor Eloy S. Inos said yesterday that government work hours will go back to 72 hours biweekly-up from the current 64 hours-during the pay period beginning July 29 up to Sept. 30, before being restored to the full 80 hours starting Oct. 1.

Inos, who oversees government finances, said the remaining eight-hour austerity will be observed during “payday Fridays.”

This means hundreds of government employees affected by the 16-hour cuts for some two years now will start seeing 72 hours in their paycheck in August.

They would also start reporting for work every other Friday, starting on Aug. 3. Currently, affected employees do not work every Friday.

Inos is expected to issue a memo on the 72 work hours biweekly today or the next few days.

Inos said the 16-hour austerity biweekly has helped the government cope with declining revenues.

“On behalf of Governor Fitial and myself, I want to extend our appreciation to the many folks who have worked with us during these challenging times, allowing us to operate within the 64 hours. Obviously, that has paid off in many ways and that payoff basically resulted in some savings in most of the departments, which now can be used to increase the working hours and then eventually slide into fiscal year 2013 for full 80 hours per pay period,” Inos told Saipan Tribune in an interview yesterday afternoon.

He also said that the government has $900,000 to $1 million to cover the additional eight work hours biweekly for employees affected by the 16-hour cuts.

A government employee on Capital Hill said yesterday “everyone affected by the austerity will be happy to have at least eight of 16 hours restored.”

“It will put more food on the table, make up for the 15-cent increase in gas prices again. It’s been two years that we have work cuts,” said the employee, who has been working in the government for 12 years.

Senate Fiscal Affairs Committee chair Jovita Taimanao (Ind-Rota) and House floor leader George Camacho (Ind-Saipan) separately said that going back to 72 hours biweekly is “welcome news.”

“I think people will be excited. And then we look forward to a full 80 hours come the new fiscal year. I would also like to congratulate the administration for diligently working towards restoring hours at the earliest possible time,” Camacho said.

Fiscal year 2013 covers the period from Oct. 1, 2012, to Sept. 30, 2013.

Tamainao, for her part, said her committee is also working expeditiously on the fiscal year 2013 budget bill that restores full 80 hours starting on Oct. 1.

The Senate Fiscal Affairs Committee started its working session on the House-passed budget bill yesterday and will continue today.

“The Senate welcomed the budget bill from the House but the Senate will have some amendments. Hopefully the House will accept the amendments and if not, I hope we could all work together on passing a balanced and timely budget,” Taimanao said in a phone interview.

Another female government employee on Capital Hill welcomed going back to 72 hours, because it means additional money for all affected households. She said she almost got used to the 16-hour cuts.

A male government employee also on Capital Hill said yesterday he might at least try going to a bar on his first paycheck reflecting 72 hours. But he said the 72-hour paycheck will mostly be for the family.

Government employees typically agree to speak with the media on the condition that they not be named.

On July 10, the governor’s special adviser for management and budget Vicky Villagomez told senators that the administration was considering the restoration of at least eight of the 16 hours that were cut from most government employees’ work hours biweekly. Inos’ statement yesterday confirmed that a decision has already been made to go back to 72 hours.

Haidee V. Eugenio | Reporter
Haidee V. Eugenio has covered politics, immigration, business and a host of other news beats as a longtime journalist in the CNMI, and is a recipient of professional awards and commendations, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s environmental achievement award for her environmental reporting. She is a graduate of the University of the Philippines Diliman.

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