MANILA - Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Friday said he supported a proposal granting private-sector nurses and medical workers a substantial wage increase.
In an online forum, Bello said he made a request to the government's pandemic task force to endorse to Congress a planned salary adjustment, the same level as those being received by government nurses and medical workers.
"Sabi ni [Health Secretary Francisco] Duque III, they will do that in due time," he told the Filipino Nurses United, a nationwide union of nurses calling for increase in minimum wage and benefits for private-sector medical workers.
"Ang mahal maging nurse. Ang hirap maging nurse tapos susuweldo ka lang ng P10,000 . . . If I will be asked, I will strongly recommend na ipataas," he added.
The minimum base pay of government nurses was raised in 2020 to salary Grade 15 amounting to at least P32,000, from salary Grade 11 or at least P22,000.
However, private nurses receive an "insultingly low" monthly average salary of P5,000 to P10,000, below the minimum wage, the union said.
"Nurses cannot even afford their own basic needs, much more of their families’ basic survival like food on the table, basic education for siblings and/or children, medical expenses of elderly parents and decent housing," FNU vice president Leni Nolasco said.
Bello also recommended a P500 hazard pay for nurses and medical workers in private hospitals, the same amount their counterparts at government health centers receive while working during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bello also called for the scrapping of contractual work agreements of health care workers at private hospitals, citing their role as "essential" more than ever.
"The services of the nurses are very essential and should not be allowed to outsource. Dapat regular employees 'yan," he said.
During the forum, Bello bared he was expecting President Rodrigo Duterte to approve the proposal to further lift the deployment ban on health workers, as those with existing employment contracts as of August 31 would be allowed to leave the country.
"I'm very confident kasi halos lahat ng kausap ko sa IATF pabor sila," he said.
Meanwhile, the move to totally lift the deployment ban, also being proposed by the FNU, is "under serious study," Bello said.
"We keep telling them na kawawa ang nurses natin. Dito wala silang trabaho din. Kung may trabaho, mababa ang suweldo," he added.
Nolasco has said the country had some 200,000 unemployed skilled nurses who could be hired to augment the shortage of nursing personnel in COVID-19 referral hospitals.
"We believe that banning nurses yet allowing the deployment of sea-based and land-based overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) for foreign employment is unjustly selective and tantamount to violating the nurse’s right to travel and right to (decent) life that the state is unable to provide especially at this time," Nolasco said.