The national government—the country’s biggest employer—should celebrate Labor Day with a mass regularization of casual workers who have been in its employ for years, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said.
“It can begin with contractual workers in government hospitals. Not only medical staff, but essential workers like attendants, cleaning and sanitation personnel, equipment technicians—without whom no hospital can exist,” Recto said.
He noted there are many civil servants who work on the basis of one short-term contract to another. “Hindi na e-endo. Hindi rin naman nape-permanent. They languish in the bureaucracy’s version of purgatory.”
According to Recto, it is high time for the government to “open a pathway” to regular employment for the thousands of casuals who may be eligible for jobs which carry security of tenure.
To get the ball rolling, Recto said the President can issue a policy announcement on May 1. He said such a presidential directive would trigger “a census of temporary workers in the public sector who are hired under such schemes like “job order,” “emergency hiring,” “Memorandum of Agreement” or “Contract of Service.”
The Civil Service Commission (CSC) said there are 600,000 contractual employees as of August 2020.
Meanwhile, Senator Joel Villanueva underscored the need to include perks for healthcare frontliners in government’s Labor Day package of benefits for workers.
The chair of the Senate labor committee was referring to the customary practice of the government to unveil a bundle of pro-labor programs and projects on the holiday honoring workers.
He justified his call by citing the “obvious fact that healthcare workers are essential to our country’s survival as they have been exposed to enormous risk during this pandemic.
He urged the government, particularly the labor and health departments, to come up “with a package of new and expanded benefits for public health workers for the President to announce on Labor Day.” He said the plan vaccination of these workers should immediately proceed.
“Even before coronavirus struck, the pay and allowances of government health workers were already ripe for an adjustment. The pandemic made this upgrade more urgent. Hazardous work must be properly compensated,” Villanueva explained.
The base pay of government health workers is set by the most recent Salary Standardization Law, while their other allowances are spelled out in RA 7305 or the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers.
“Magna Carta” benefits include overtime pay, night shift differential, hazard allowance, subsistence allowance, longevity pay, laundry allowance and remote assignment allowance, among others.
For their pandemic work, health workers in the public sector received a Special Risk Allowance of P5,000 as authorized by the Bayanihan I Law and Administrative Order No. 36.
Villanueva said compensation of health workers, with priority given to those performing “actual frontline duty,” must be increased “including what our frontline Barangay Health Workers are getting.
He said his proposal is not limited to those in the public sector, but also covers health workers in the country’s 932 private hospitals and 315 private infirmaries.
“The Labor Day package must cover private health workers. We call on the government to provide subsidies to frontliners in private health institutions. Nothing in the law prohibits the grant of such,” he surmised.
“In fact, the national budget provides for subsidies in the hundreds of billions. Itong pong 4Ps, pension for seniors, maging ang libreng tuition sa kolehiyo at high school vouchers are in the nature of grants, aid and donation, which are not only allowed but encouraged,” Villanueva stated.
“So if the government helps those who are not working, then why can’t it not extend the same to our working heroes?” he asked.