Senator urges hazard pay for private janitors, guards, maintenance workers in hospitals
Robie de Guzman • August 17, 2020 • 458
MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Monday called on the government to give hazard pay to private janitors, security guards, and maintenance personnel in public hospitals as they also face health risks when reporting to their work every day amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement, Recto said these essential but “unheralded” workers should get extra pay from the national government for keeping hospitals clean.
The senator also said contracted janitors and sanitation workers are “virus killers” who keep hospitals clean, “one scrub, one mop, one wipe at a time.”
“They stand shoulder to shoulder with medical staff in public hospitals, but because of their status as private service providers, janitors and security guards are not entitled to hazard and hardship pay despite facing the same health risks,” he said.
“Sanitation workers, housekeepers, janitors, security guards, equipment and building maintenance staff who work for private companies under contract with public hospitals are frontliners, too. Without them, a hospital will collapse,” he added.
Despite their vital role, Recto said most of these workers “quietly toil on minimum pay.”
The lawmaker urged the Department of Health, Department of Budget and Management and both houses of Congress to come up with a package on how to augment the salary of these employees “for the high-risk work they do.”
But in order to expedite this, Recto said the President should issue an order granting benefits to these workers.
“A cross subsidy is allowed under the law,” he said.
“And why should we not, when we’ve given tens of billions of ayuda (assistance) to people who are just staying in their homes. Government is readying billions to bail out companies. Habang itong mga hospital workers na ito, na nagbubuwis ng buhay, wala man lang tayong maiabot,” he added.
Recto also said that because these jobs have been privatized by government to contractors who tendered the lowest bid, “the thin margins cascade down to workers in the form of lower wages”
He said the government has spent P16.63 billion on contracted “general services” which include janitorial, security, sanitation and other non-professional services in 2018.
Of this amount, P1.53 billion was spent by the DOH on 60 hospitals it directly operates.
This does not include expenses by 10 specialty hospitals like the Philippine Heart Center and 363 local government-run hospitals, Recto said.
President Rodrigo Duterte will announce the new quarantine classifications for November on Monday (October 26) evening, according to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.
“We will proceed with our meeting with him via Zoom at inaasahan pa rin pong magre-report ang ilang miyembro ng Gabinete lalong lalo na dito sa quarantine classifications (and we expect several Cabinet members will also present their report especially for the quarantine classifications),” he said during a press briefing.
Roque also confirmed the technical working group of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) already has a recommendation regarding the quarantine classifications.
The Palace official also confirmed that the President already assigned a vaccine czar two months ago. This was after the proposal of Senate President Pro Tempore Ralp Recto in order to prepare for the needed storage facility and the system for vaccine distribution.
“Two months ago, I recalled si Presidente may tinalagang vaccine czar kaya lang po, iyong naitalagang vaccine czar is hesitant when I asked him if I could remind the public that he has been designated as a vaccine czar kasi baka hindi na raw po maalala ni President. So we would like to wait for the Pesident to make an announcement anew (I recalled, two months ago, the President already assigned a vaccine czar. However, the assigned vaccine czar was hesitant when I asked him if I could remind the public that he has been designated. He said the President may have forgotten already so we would like to wait for the President to make the announcement anew),” Roque said. AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)
Experts from the University of the Philippines (UP) OCTA Research team said relaxed travel restrictions may still pose health risks.
Dr. Guido David, team member of the UP OCTA Research, said it is too early for the country to accept inbound travels and that further review is needed to avoid coronavirus disease (COVID-19) transmission.
“There’s a surge happening right now in Europe so if we were not careful, maraming cases [there are a lot of cases] outside the Philippine, in Europe and certain parts of the world, kasama pa rin diyan iyong sa (these includes) the United States and India. So we have to be careful about letting people,” he said.
David also said despite the drop of COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila, there is still a possibility for cases to increase if no safety measures is implemented.
“We’re also a bit worried because the rate of decrease in NCR is not that low anymore. It’s very slow. So it could be, the trend might be reversing anytime,” he added.
Services of Red Cross should also resume first, according to David, because its testing capacity covers 1/4 of the total testing capacity of the country. He also reiterated the need for the public to cooperate in order to fight against the virus.
“The public should be aware that the virus is still here. That the pandemic is not yet over. So if they’re loosening restrictions, responsibility is in the public in deciding whether or not they want to go out,” he said. -AAC (with reports from Vincent Arboleda).
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