Overworked, underpaid health workers urged to strike vs abusive employers

Published September 20, 2020, 9:14 AM

by Leslie Ann Aquino

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said yesterday that private hospital workers should assert their rights by holding a labor strike against their employers even as he appealed to private hospitals and medical facilities not to exploit their already overworked and underpaid healthcare workers.


“We know these things happen. In high-end hospitals, they make millions of profits but do not share these with their workers,” said Bello in an online forum last week.

“Our appeal to them is: Do not exploit your medical workers. Many of their nurses are working from a minimum of 10 to 12 hours a day but their salary is ₱15,000 to ₱18,000 only, which is way, way below the rate of our nurses in the public sector,” he added.

Bello said the low salary is one of the reasons why medical workers seek employment opportunities abroad.

“In a meeting, I appealed to Health Secretary (Francisco) Duque to initiate a proposal to Congress for the upgrading of the nurses and medical workers in the private sector to the level of the nurses and medical workers in the public sector because the discrepancy is too big. That is the reason why many of our nurses in the private sector are looking to overseas employment rather than stay in our country,” he said.

According to Bello, they have long wanted to run after erring hospitals but there are no complainants.

“They are very meek. If there is no complainant, what can our inspectors do?” he said.

“Why don’t you join forces? All of you (health workers) in the private sector, come together and declare a strike. Let’s see if these hospitals don’t cooperate. They have to assert their rights because they have long been exploited,” said Bello.

Humane way of looking at work Archdiocese of Manila apostolic administrator Bishop Broderick Pabillo on Sunday lauded owners of businesses who continue to operate in spite of the hard times due to the COVID-19 pandemic for the sake of their workers.

In his homily during a Mass at the Most Holy Trinity Parish in Manila, he said to sustain the workers in their work is “to give life and hope to them and their families.”

Pabillo also expressed his admiration to companies who give salaries to their workers for several months even if they could not work because of the pandemic.

“These companies reflect the generosity of the owner of the vineyard (in the Bible). He did not just pay the workers for their work, he paid them because they are their workers,” he said.

“Can we adopt this way of looking at work? We don’t calculate the salary just according to the amount of work done, but we pay the wage to support a human person,” added Pabillo.

He said this is a more “humane” way of looking at work.

Pabillo said employers should also not be contented in just giving the minimum wage to workers but strive to give a living wage as this is also found in the Philippine Constitution.

“The living wage is the amount it salary that a worker and his family can decently live on a daily basis,” he said.

“Here in the Philippines, the minimum wage in Metro Manila is ₱537. But based on studies, the amount that can decently support a family of five in a day is ₱1,022,” added Pabillo.

He said labor should not be viewed as an expense but rather as an asset.

“Can we not see labor as an asset, a capital, as a resource? We cut down on expense but we build up on resource,” said Pabillo.

The latest Job Displacement Monitoring Report of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) revealed that 199,660 workers from 11,035 establishments have been displaced from January to present.

Of the 11,035 establishments, 9,886 reduced workforce while 1,149 reported permanent closure.