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Hazard pay for gov’t workers ‘deceptive,’ ‘divisive’ — health workers’ group

/ 03:10 PM June 10, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Administrative Order No. 26 which granted hazard pay to government personnel who physically report for work during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) is “deceptive” and “divisive,” a group of health workers said.

In a statement dated June 5, the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) said the hazard pay provided by the administrative order is not an added benefit to health workers who regularly receive the same benefit.

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The group noted a portion of the order in Section 1 which reads: “personnel who are already entitled to a hazard pay, hazardous duty pay, hazard allowance or other similar benefits under existing laws, issuances, rules, and regulations, such as public health workers, public social workers, science and technology personnel and military and uniformed personnel, shall continue to be entitled to such benefits or the COVID-19 hazard pay, whichever is higher.”

The AHW said this means a health worker will have to choose between the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers hazard pay or COVID-19 hazard pay, depending on which is higher in amount between the two benefits on computation.

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“In the midst of a pandemic and health crisis, where health workers are being put at the forefront of the battle against an unseen and deadly disease, the DOH and the Duterte administration have even managed to deceive, divide and insult health workers,” said AHW national president Robert Mendoza.

“The government is not sincere in recognizing the contributions of health workers who are inevitably exposed to health risks and hazards, especially those assigned to disease-infested places which pose occupational risks or perils to life,” he added.

The group also pointed out that the administrative order, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in March, is divisive since, in actual computation, the amount of hazard pay received by a nurse on duty for 12 hours per shift for four days a week at the COVID-19 ward is smaller compared to office personnel who report for eight hours a day for five days a week.

Under the order, COVID-19 hazard pay is computed based on the number of days not by the number of hours a health worker reports for work.

Furthermore, AHW said the source of funds for the hazard pay will be charged from the hospital’s share of the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2020 or the approved budget for 2020 and not an additional fund. But since government hospitals suffered from annual budget cuts, the promised COVID-19 hazard pay amounting to P500.00 per day might not be given to the intended recipients.

Should government agencies have insufficient allotments to fully cover the COVID-19 hazard pay at a rate of P500 per person per day, the order allows a lower but uniform rate that may be granted for all qualified personnel, the group also noted.

“This government deceives health workers because the funds for COVID-19 hazard pay shall be taken from the Personal Services (PS) and MOOE (Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses) of GAA 2020. In fact, there is almost nothing to heave from those funds,” said Mendoza.

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“While other benefits and previously accepted benefits will be affected because the fund is also taken from the PS and MOOE. Better yet, if the government derives funds for COVID-19 hazard pay from the billions of COVID-19 response fund in order that such benefit could be realized,” he added.

Earlier, Civil Service Commission (CSC) commissioner Aileen Lizada said government workers who will physically report for work in areas placed under a general community quarantine are no longer entitled to hazard pay.

Public health workers, policemen and soldiers, and others mandated to receive hazard pay under the law, however, will still receive such benefit, according to Lizada.

Mendoza expressed disappointment over the exclusion of other state workers in the hazard pay when the number of COVID-19 cases in the country is still rising.

He also called on the government to grant the hazard pay with equal amounts to all public health workers regardless of salary grades, and to continue to grant the benefit to all health workers and other frontliners even during GCQ and until the pandemic is gone.

“We call on our fellow health workers to unite, expose and denounce the COVID-19 hazard pay and let us call for an equal and significant amount of hazard pay for all health workers both in public and private hospitals and other health facilities,” urged Mendoza.

In an earlier press briefing, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque defended the decision of the government to discontinue the grant of the hazard pay to government workers who physically report to work during GCQ, saying that the threat of the coronavirus has become “manageable.”

He asked state workers for understanding especially as the government needs funds to contain the further spread of the virus.

INQUIRER.net has sought comment from the Department of Health on the issues raised by AHW but has yet to receive a reply as of this posting.

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TAGS: Administrative Order No. 26 , Alliance of Health Workers
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