Health workers march for wage increase

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This article is available in Pilipino

In the annual commemoration of Health Workers Day on May 7, health workers marched in Manila and Baguio City to demand living wages, job security, more hospital staff, labor rights and the rights of the Filipino people for health [services].

The march was led by Health Workers United for Wage Increase (HWUWI) and Coalition of Health Workers’ Organizations in the Cordillera. The member unions of the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) launched protests and other types of activities in the cities of Iloilo, Bacolod, and Cebu, in Camarines Norte, and in Soccsksargen and BARMM regions.

“We gathered and united today because this is the most important and most appropriate day to fight for our rights and welfare,” said Robert Mendoza, AHW national president and Health Workers United for Wage Increase convenor. Instead of celebrating, health workers unite on the streets to protest the Marcos regime’s continued disregard for their rights and interests, he said.

He added that in the two years that Marcos have been in power, health workers’ conditions further became miserable. Due to the hospitals’ acute shortage, health workers are forced to work 12 to 24 hour shifts, in addition to getting inadequate compensation. This the reason why others resign, retire early or migrate overseas to work, he said.

Salary Grade 1 (SG1) public health workers are paid only ₱13,000 per month while those in the private sector are paid ₱610 per day. “That’s why it’s important that we immediately demand ₱33,000 salary for new health workers to keep up with daily needs,” according to Sally Ejes, president of the Philippine Heart Center Employees Association-AHW.

Apart from this, they also demanded the release of unpaid allowances including Health Emergency Allowance (HEA) to private hospitals and health workers under local governments and Performance Based-Bonus (PBB) of those in public hospitals for 2021-2023. It said that the number of regular health workers should also be increased to keep up with the provision of proper health services to the public.

According to state data, the Department of Health (DOH) in 2022 has 16,951 casual employees and 9,947 contractual health workers under the Human Resources for Health (HRH). The AHW says the DOH is set to employ 26,035 contractual doctors, nurses, midwives, dentists and other health professionals under its National Health Workforce Support program in rural and remote areas.

“The Department of Budget and Management says the Department of Health has 17,000 rank-and-file positions that have not been filled. We have been calling for a large increase in employees for a long time during and even before the pandemic, but this government remains deaf and heartless to our requests,” said Edwin Pacheco, president of the National Kidney and Transplant Institute Employees Association-AHW.

On the same day, the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) condemned the US-Marcos regime for its self- and foreign-serving programs instead of funding social services including health. The group says the regime pocketed and squandered enormous funds in confidential and intelligence funds, the railroading of charter change and the launching of Balikatan 39-24.

“Let’s stand up and fight as health workers, and as Filipinos. Let’s demand wages, jobs, and free health services. Let’s uphold and fight for our sovereignty,” the group called.

AB: Health workers march for wage increase