SENATOR Joel Villanueva on Wednesday stressed that benefits for workers that the government would unveil on Labor Day should specifically include a package for healthcare workers.
“Given today’s circumstances, I think that should be a major plank of the traditional May 1 announcement by Malacanang,” said Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee, in a statement.
Villanueva was referring to the customary practice of the government of giving out a bundle of pro-labor programs and projects on the holiday honoring workers.
“Ang pakiusap po natin sa Palasyo, sa Mayo Uno ay unahin po natin ang mga manggagawa sa kalusugan,” Villanueva appealed.
He justified his call by citing the “obvious fact that healthcare workers are essential to our country’s survival.”
“Our situation today places an enormous risk on our healthcare workers. How can it not be when if you’re in a hospital comforting a COVID-19 patient, the air around can make you ill or cause your death?” Villanueva stressed.
The senator urged the government, particularly the labor and health departments, to come up “with a package of new and expanded benefits for public health workers for the President to announce on Labor Day.”
“Even before coronavirus struck, the pay and allowances of government health workers were already ripe for an adjustment. The pandemic made this upgrade more urgent. Hazardous work must be properly compensated,” Villanueva explained.
The base pay of government health workers is set by the most recent Salary Standardization Law, while their other allowances are spelled out in RA 7305 or the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers.
“Magna Carta” benefits include overtime pay, night shift differential, hazard allowance, subsistence allowance, longevity pay, laundry allowance and remote assignment allowance, among others.
For their pandemic work, health workers in the public sector received a Special Risk Allowance of P5,000 as authorized by the Bayanihan I Law and Administrative Order No. 36.
Villanueva said compensation of health workers, with priority given to those performing “actual frontline duty,” must be increased “including what our frontline Barangay Health Workers are getting.”
Villanueva said his proposal is not limited to those in the public employ, but also covers health workers in the country’s 932 private hospitals and 315 private infirmaries.
“The Labor Day package must cover private health workers. We call on the government to provide subsidies to frontliners in private health institutions. Nothing in the law prohibits the grant of such,” he surmised.
“In fact, the national budget provides for subsidies in the hundreds of billions. Ito pong 4Ps, pension for seniors, maging ang libreng tuition sa kolehiyo at high school vouchers are in the nature of grants, aid and donation, which are not only allowed but encouraged,” Villanueva stated.
“So if the government helps those who are not working, then why can’t it not extend the same to our working heroes?” he asked.