A labor coalition demanded a dialogue with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to address pressing concerns affecting the country’s healthcare workers during the commemoration of National Heroes’ Day.
The NAGKAISA labor coalition paid tribute to the heroism of fallen medical workers Monday through offline and online activities. They also demanded for the highest level of protection of healthcare workers who are offering their lives in the frontlines of an ongoing global health crisis.
“In honor of their heroism, NAGKAISA demands the best for healthcare workers,” the group said in a statement.
In an open letter addressed to DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III, the coalition highlighted the importance of providing hazard pay for all front line workers.
“Unlike public health workers, we in the private sector do not enjoy hazard pay as mandated by Republic Act No. 7305 or the Magna Carta for Public Health Workers. A P500 per day hazard pay, or that equivalent in the public sector, must be mandated to ensure private health care workers are properly compensated,” the group said.
They also demanded for a higher entry salary for healthcare workers. They cited that the private health sector is experiencing an exodus to the public sector. The reason why many are seeking to migrate and work in other countries is mainly discrimination in salaries and benefits.
“This nationwide industry-level wage distortion must be addressed,” they added.
More than the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), most private hospitals have been remiss in taking care of care workers. Hence, they also demanded protection for healthcare workers.
“We demand adequate protection such as compliance with Occupational Safety and Health protocols, lesser hours of work and (adherence to the standard) patient-ratio, and free transportation, shuttle services, or accommodation,” they said.
“It is the height of irony that those who provide health care to the public cannot care for themselves and their families. We demand free medical benefits for us and our immediate families, which must include periodic COVID-19 testing, paid quarantine leaves, free vitamins to boost our immune system, and free medical insurance, including mental health consultations,” the group added.
NAGKAISA said healthcare workers feel that they have been neglected and sacrificed in the fight against this pandemic.
In an online forum with hospital unions last week, the group noted appalling conditions confronting our health workers, including “lack of hazard pay and low salaries, sub-par working conditions, gruesome working hours, inhumane treatment, such as prohibition of bathroom breaks and lack of food.”
They said there is also neglect in health protocols and protection, such as lack of free, ready, and available COVID-19 testing kits for those on duty in the quarantined areas, and unpaid quarantine leaves.
“We are fed up with platitudes and accolades hailing us as “new heroes” when the fact of the matter is that we are suffering and neglected. We might be far from heroes, but we are also human beings in need of care,” the unions concluded.