Lawmakers on Sunday warned that the illegal practice of “false volunteers”—where nurses are forced to accept regular clinical jobs while given meager pay—would worsen after President Benigno Aquino III vetoed a bill that would have increase the entry-level pay hike of government nurses.
Ang Nars Rep. Leah Paquiz, one of the principal authors of the Comprehensive Nursing Law of 2016, lamented that Aquino had failed to consider equally important provisions in the bill that guarantee protection and security of tenure for nurses.
“We felt this bill is one way of eliminating the abuses and oppression committed against our nurses. This is not just about salary. This is about the welfare of our nurses, some of whom are living in shanties. We are giving them a living wage—a decent wage—and protection,” she said in an interview over dzBB.
“With the veto, the oppression will continue in the hospitals. The practice of false training which is really unnecessary will continue,” Paquiz added.
Gabriela Rep.-elect Arlene Brosas said more than pay hikes, the bill seeks to provide better and fairer nursing conditions by outlawing nefarious work modalities such as the exploitative “volunteer work” scheme where nursing graduates are forced to provide full time clinical work without any compensation.
Brosas described the presidential veto, done days before Aquino steps down on June 30, as “midnight cruelty.”
“The law would have benefitted public health care for Filipinos as it will have mandated the government to assign a nurse for every barangay, every school, and every workplace, make hospitals ensure safer nurse-to-patient ratios and make nursing a humane and decent career by banning contractual, job order, OJT and volunteer job positions,” she said.
Earlier, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. defended the veto, noting that Aquino had already increased the minimum base pay for entry-level nurses through Executive Order No. 201.
The EO raised the total guaranteed annual compensation of government nurses from P228,924 to P344,074, Coloma said.
Aquino said the bill, which proposes to further increase the entry level salary for nurses by four grades, will undermine the existing government salary structure and cause wage distortion not only among medical and health care practitioners but also other professionals in the government service.
“That is a funny excuse. It is time for government nurses and health workers to receive decent pay. This is the responsibility of government. There will be no wage distortion if they will also increase the salary of other health workers,” Paquiz said.
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