SAYING they should be given priority for facing significant exposure to Covid-19, the Filipino Nurses United (FNU) on Tuesday said nurses plan to file a formal case against the “perpetrators” who refused to comply with the Supreme Court’s order to implement salary grade (SG) 15 salaries, as well as provide timely salaries and benefits like Covid-duty hazard pay and special risk allowance (SRA).
The FNU has called on the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for the immediate release of salaries for emergency-hired health-care workers (HCWs), and the Covid-duty hazard pay and SRA that they deserve.
“Both the DOH and the Department of Budget and Management have remained deaf to the cry of thousands of nurses literally begging for their just salaries and benefits to provide food security and other survival needs of their starving families,” the FNU said in a statement, adding, “These government agencies have all the resources and power to implement the mandated salaries and benefits for health workers and yet they become culprits in exploiting the frontline health workers at midst of the Covid-19 battle.”
The group said of DOH: instead of exercising its motu propio power, it “prescribes a heartless and bureaucratic route” for the nurses and other health workers to submit written complaints with supporting evidence to prove that they have been denied of just salaries and benefits.
On the other hand, they said thousands of nurses in the private sector demand speedy action from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to increase their P537 daily minimum wage equal to the SG-15 entry salary of government nurses and to ensure their Covid-hazard pay and SRA are also provided.
They added that Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III recognizes the situation of nurses in the private sector and is very much aware of rampant violation of employers to comply with the current minimum wage. “Secretary Bello’s call for nurses to wage a labor strike is an acceptance of its failure to address the nurses’ call for just and living wage. His call for a strike at the midst of battle against Covid-19 pandemic is not the best option. The DOLE must utilize its power to expedite the increase in minimum wage of nurses and other health workers who are essential and vital forces in health-care delivery system.”
Aside from the delay in the salaries and benefits of HCWs, the FNU also reiterated its call to the government to:
Totally scrap the provision of DBM circular 2020-4 that demotes government nurses with Nurse II to Nurse VII positions;
Upgrade the salaries of all government nurses with Nurse II, Nurse III, Nurse IV, Nurse V, Nurse VI and Nurse VII positions;
Monitor and ensure enforcement of the salary upgrade from SG 11 to SG 15 (P22,00 to P32,000) of all government Nurse 1 nurses, including those who are contractual and working in local government units and government-owned or -controlled corporations through issuance of memorandum and sanctions for non-compliance;
End contractualization of nurses. Regularize all contractuals, create more plantilla positions for nurses and fill up all vacant positions;
Mass hiring of nurses, with permanent positions, both for hospitals and public health. There should be an additional public health nurse in every barangay health station in 42,000 barangays; and
Allot subsidy for private sector nurses. Increase the salaries of nurses in the private sector with entry salary equivalent to Nurse I position’s SG15 in the government.
Earlier, the DOH said it takes the issue of delayed benefits of HCWs “very seriously,” and encouraged HCWs to inform them or file a written complaint which health facilities have not yet released their benefits.
“When matters like this come to our attention, we conduct thorough investigations and concerned offices are made to answer to the Secretary and develop solutions to improve the delivery of services and expedite processes. As health workers, many of us in the DOH—including members of our Executive Committee—have experienced working on the ground, in our health facilities, which is why we understand the challenges in the frontlines—being overworked, underpaid, demoralized, and in this pandemic, even more vulnerable,” the DOH said.
Image credits: AP/Bullit Marquez