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Group calls for wage increase for nurses in private sector

The Filipino Nurses United (FNU) on Friday called for an increase in the minimum wage and benefits of nurses working in the private sector, saying they also render the same service as colleagues in the public sector.

While nurses in the public sector are assured of a salary increase under the Department of Budget and Management’s Circular 2002-4 issued on July 17, FNU said nurses in the private sector were not included.

“Sadly, no equivalent decree that may apply for nurses in the private sector to accord them due recognition and at par compensation to ease them from their present miserable condition even though both belong to one profession rendering same service for the general population,” FNU said in a statement.

The FNU said some nurses in the private sector cannot even afford their own basic needs because their salary is “way below” the minimum wage.

“The wage of nurses in the private sector is way below at P537 daily for those in NCR and much lower at P280 per day in BARMM with some nurses getting an insultingly low P5,000 to P10,000 average monthly salary,” the group said.

“Worse, these overworked nurses are made to handle a patient load beyond the DOH-set standard of 1:12 patients with no additional pay for overtime or extended work,” they added.

The group also recommended giving medical workers in the private sector all applicable benefits under the Labor Code amid the national health emergency.

The FNU said these include provision of free, adequate, fit-tested, appropriate and medical-grade personal protective equipment, free mandatory RT-PCR COVID-19 testing every 15 days along with paid 14 days quarantine period for protection of all nurses in COVID-19 duty. It added that no nurse must be made to resume duty without a negative swab test result.

The FNU added that there should be an active hazard duty pay no less than P500 per eight hours duty, not daily, because some nurses work beyond eight hours or 12-hour shifts.

“This active hazard duty pay must be provided in addition to hazard pay as may be contained in existing collective bargaining agreements (CBAs). This must be tax-exempt and given during the entire COVID-19 pandemic regardless of the community quarantine (CQ) status,” it said.

Aside from the hazard pay, FNU said nurses should also have a tax-free COVID-19 monthly special risk allowance amounting to P500 daily of the actual duty rendered for the entire duration of the pandemic, regardless of the community quarantine status.

Compensation for nurses who have contracted COVID-19 or any work-related injury or disease during the state of national public health emergency where in case of death, whether due to COVID-19 or any work-related injury or disease, P1,000,000 shall be provided to the heirs of the deceased health worker,” it said.

“In case of COVID-19 sickness, regardless of severity, whether mild, moderate, severe or critical case, P100,000 shall be provided to the health worker. These benefits must be retroactive February 1, 2020,” FNU added.

The group also said there should be a provision for medical expenses incurred as a result of the medical workers’ exposure to COVID-19 or any work-related injury or disease during the state of national emergency. It said the provision should include allocation of free hospital facilities/wards and medical services for its employees.

Moreover, it said frontline health workers should be provided with additional provisions such as free life insurance, decent and safe accommodation, transportation and meals amid the pandemic, regardless of the community quarantine status.

“It is insulting to hail our nurses and other frontline health workers as heroes without providing them with the above proposed benefits and compensation. At present, almost 6,000 health workers are infected with COVID-19 and more than 2,000 of them are nurses being at the bedside of COVID patients most of the time from admission until discharge from hospital,” FNU said.

Meanwhile, Labor Secretary Silvestro Bello III said he already requested Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to propose to Congress the upgrading of the salaries of the nurses and other medical workers in the private sector to the same level as the ones in the private sector.

“Sabi naman ni Secretary Duque that they will do that in due time,” Bello said during a virtual dialogue with FNU.

“Same position (sa hazard pay) kasi the nurses in the private sector are exposed to the same hazard… Parehas lang naman ang situation ng public at tsaka private eh,” he added.

Enactment of Magna Carta of private health workers

Meanwhile, FNU urged the government to enact into law the proposed Magna Carta of Private Health Workers or House Bill No. 5184 as soon as possible.

The group said the proposed bill will protect private health workers and avoid their further exodus.

“The bill aims to provide the basic rights, welfare and benefits of private health workers including nurses to encourage them to stay in the country and serve the Filipino people. Moreover, the bill aims to reduce, if not to eliminate the disparities between the public and private health workers under the principle of equality and non-discrimination,” it said.

The bill, which was crafted by organized labor unions of private hospitals with the support of FNU, was filed in Congress by Bayan Muna Party-list representatives last October 22.

If asked by Congress on his position on the bill, Bello said he will endorse it “very strongly and favorably.” -- BAP, GMA News