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Monday, June 8, 2009

Nurses decry lower salaries in new law

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MANILA, Philippines— Public health workers on Wednesday staged a rally outside the office of the health secretary slamming the Department of Health’s silence on the approval of the Salary Standardization Law (SSL) in Congress earlier this week.

Emma Manuel, national president of the Alliance of Health Workers Inc., said members of her organization are disappointed with the passage of the salary standardization scheme which disregards the Nursing Act of 2002 and threatens their benefits under the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers.

The new law is “worse than the A/H1N1 virus, instantly killing the Nursing Act provision on Salary Grade 15 for nurses and putting the benefits of public health workers in jeopardy,” Manuel said.

Under the new law, new nurses are at Salary Grade 11 getting a monthly salary of P12,000. The law provides for P6,000 worth of increases spread over four years.

But under another law, the Nursing Act or Republic Act 9173, which was enacted seven years ago but still not implemented until now, new nurses should be at Salary Grade 15, getting a monthly salary of P25,000.

“In the last seven years, the government deprived the Filipino nurses of their right to Salary Grade 15,” said Manuel.

Teresita Barcelo, national president of the Philippine Nurses Association Inc., said the signing of SSL into law killed the Nursing Law and “denied Filipino nurses of their right to humane salaries.”

“We help take care of life but we are deprived of our rights. We are fighting for our legitimate right—the implementation of RA 9173,” she said in Filipino.

Barcelo said nurses in the Philippines are overworked, with a nurse to patient ratio of one is to 50. She said this situation makes it hard for nurses here to perform their health duties and to sustain their families’ financial needs.

Manuel also lamented the silence of the Department of Health in the issue. She said it smacks of “utmost insensitivity to the plight of nurses and health workers. While health workers tirelessly lobbied in the House and Senate, the DoH washed its hands, literally and figuratively.”

Ernie Espinosa, president of National Center for Mental Health Workers Association, agreed. “Neither the DoH secretary nor any director from the department joined us in our fight for our salaries and rights. We are health workers who serve the people and the government,” he said.

Health Assistant Secretary Luna Fernandez told the group that the DoH will be open for dialog with the health workers.

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