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Hike healthworkers’ salary and they will stay, says Labor secretary

Elmer Navarro Manuel

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The Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) on Tuesday urged the government to hike the salary of nurses that would convince them to stay and give their services in the country amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

In a television interview, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III explained that salary upgrade for nurses is long overdue, noting that it is one of the reasons why around 200,000 nurses in the country are unemployed even if the Department of Health (DoH) already launched an emergency hiring program.

“We need to upgrade the salary of nurses, especially in the private sector.  How can we convince them if they will be the ones who will pay for their needs?

“What’s happening now is that nurses have 10 to 12 hours of duty, but the salary ranges from P9,000, P15,000, and maximum P18,000, so you really cannot blame them if they want to leave,” Bello said.

The Labor chief also stressed that he and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III would need to go to Congress to call for passage of the law that would increase the salaries of nurses.

He also urged the nurses to assert their right by filing a complaint if they are being deprived of the benefits due them.

“They also have a responsibility to stand for their rights. Gather yourselves even for a day and file a complaint,” Bello said.

To recall, the government has suspended the deployment of Filipino health workers abroad amid the COVID-19 pandemic, only allowing new hires who have completed their requirements on or before 8 March to leave.

The suspended deployment was eased Monday, when the President allowed all returning health workers and new hires who secured requirements by 31 August to leave the country.

Earlier this month, the Filipino Nurses United (FNU) 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 the same service for the general population,” the 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,” said the FNU. “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,” it added.

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