Medical frontliners who have been denied their hazard pay despite service rendered call on government to see to it that medical institutions comply with the law granting benefits to health workers.
Three months after she was assigned at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa City, a health worker on the frontline in the fight against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has yet to receive her hazard pay.
Dianne (not her real name) already resigned as volunteer or contract of service (COS) employee but “no action has been taken” with regard to her hazard pay.
She is not alone. Her colleagues also share the same problem of stalled hazard pay and call on government to give them their due.
"Pag tatawagan na ang RITM hindi sila macontact, laging ganon (Whenever we would call RITM, they could not be reached. It’s always like that)," she told Manila Bulletin in an interview.
Under Section 21 of R.A. 7305 (The Magna Carta of Public Health Workers), health workers "in areas declared under state of calamity or emergency for the duration thereof...shall be compensated hazard allowance equivalent to at least 25 percent of the monthly basic salary of health workers receiving salary grade 19 and below, and five percent for health workers with salary grade 20 and above."
As salary grade 15, Diane said her contract stipulates that she would receive "a premium benefit equivalent to 20 percent of the monthly salary, inclusive of taxes, PAG-IBIG and PhilHealth contributions" on top of her basic salary. But the Human Resource Department (HRD) of RITM reportedly told them it could only give five percent as their "head has not yet signed the 20 percent."
"Ang question naman namin, bakit nila kami bibigyan ng 5 percent kung di naman kami, kung di naman nakalagay sa contract namin, which is ang nakalagay sa'min is 20 percent (Why give us only 5 percent when our job contract says we are entitled to a premium benefit equivalent to 20 percent)," she said.
Administrative Order No. 26 signed by President Duterte in March provides the "grant of hazard pay to government personnel who physically report for work during the period of an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) relative to the COVID-19 outbreak."
The amount, according to the AO should not exceed P500 a day per person.
Dianne said she and her other colleagues neither received both.
Even their contract signing was delayed. Dianne claimed they signed their contract only in July after the ECQ was lifted, two months after they were hired reportedly so they would "no longer be qualified for hazard pay."
"So ang ginawa nila, dinelay nila yung contract signing namin para di kami makapasok doon sa ECQ, yung benefit ng hazard pay (They delayed the contract signing so we would not qualify for hazard pay under ECQ)," she claimed.
"Ang nilalaban namin is kahit wala contract, as long as nagstart kami ng ECQ kahit papano meron kaming hazard pay doon sa week na pinasok namin (although it's not in the contract, by the mere fact that we started working during ECQ we are entitled to hazard pay. That is what we are fighting for)," she added.
They also raised concern about their contracts, which, she said, have not yet been signed by the hospital's management and returned to them.
Dianne said they need a copy of their contract for filing before the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) in order for them to reimburse their taxes.
"Sabi nila, pag di namin na-file one month yung sa tax namin, sa BIR namin, di rin namin mababawi yung tax na kinakaltas nila samin (We were told that if we could not file it with the BIR, we could not get back our taxes)," she said.
"Noong fina-follow up na namin yung contract, medyo naiinis pa sila samin kasi bakit daw kami nagmamadali sa contract (When we called to follow-up our contracts, RITM appeared annoyed at our insistence for them to release our contracts)," she added.
Manila Bulletin on Thursday reached out to RITM through its communication head for comment but the communication office said they would "ask HRD what happened."
RITM has yet to respond as of posting.
Early this week, a nurse in Cainta, Rizal succumbed to COVID-19 and it was only after her death that her daughter was able to get her hazard pay.
To her dismay, Maria Thereza Cruz' daughter discovered that instead of P30,000 which is equivalent to Cruz’ hazard pay for 41 days, she was only given P7,000.
"This issue is not about monetary value. This issue is about how some government agencies lie and how we take for granted and exploit our frontliners in the face of this pandemic," Joie Cruz, the nurse's daughter posted on Facebook.
Dianne is calling on the government to see to it that medical institutions comply with what the law provides as health workers' benefits.
She has since resigned from RITM and now works at a government hospital where her contact no longer states the kind of benefit she would receive.
"Kaya kung yung isang COS is hindi sya madalas nag-uupdate sa mismong website ng DOH (Department of Health), hindi nya malalaman kung anong benefits that time nang pumirma sya ng kontrata (So if a COS is not updated about what's being posted on DOH website, he or she would not know what kind of benefit she would receive at the time of contract signing)," she added.