Group slams gov’t nurses’ ‘demotion’
Public hospital nurses ironically suffered a demotion after the government raised their entry salary to Salary Grade (SG) 15 or about P32,000 per month last July, a nurses’ organization said.
Instead of correspondingly upgrading the salaries of senior nurses, hospitals used the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Circular No. 2020-4 as basis against a general salary increase.
The circular dated July 17 was notable for its upgrading the entry salary of nurses from SG 11 (about P22,000) to SG 15 (about P32,000), but it also effectively demoted long-serving nurses.
The circular modified the Nurse II position with SG 15 to the lower position of Nurse I, but with the same salary grade as Nurse II.
Nurse III with SG 17 (P38,000) will be Nurse II, but with the same salary; Nurse IV with SG 19 (P46,000) will be Nurse III, but with the same salary; Nurse V with SG 20 (P52,000) will be Nurse IV, with that same salary; Nurse VI with SG 22 (P66,000) will be Nurse V, with the same salary; and Nurse VII with SG 24 (P85,000) will be Nurse VI with the same salary.
As a result, nurses in the Nurse II to VII positions not only did not get any corresponding salary increase but were even demoted. Last month, the Department of Health (DOH) issued Memorandum No. 2020-466 suspending the implementation of the DBM circular for Nurse II and above.
But according to the Filipino Nurses United (FNU), many hospitals ignored the order and have accordingly demoted their senior nurses.
Furthermore, “[t]housands of nurses … suffered from demoralization and confusion as they were pressured by their employers to sign reappointment documents that demote them one rank from their current position,” the group said in a statement.
In an online news conference on Thursday, FNU president Maristela Abenojar said, “They [the hospitals] should have complied with the law. The demotion should not have happened in the first place.”
The law she was referring to was Republic Act No. 9173 or the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002. Section 32 of that law states that “the minimum base pay of nurses working in the public health institutions shall not be lower than Salary Grade 15 prescribed under Republic Act No. 6758, otherwise known as the Compensation and Classification Act of 1989.”
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said his agency and the DBM would take “immediate measures to resolve this matter.”
Although he said the circular had caused “confusion,” Duque also stood by the DBM’s assertion that “there is no demotion of salary or a diminution of benefits concerning the positions of Nurse II and above positions.”
Duque said his agency supported calls by some lawmakers to include a special provision in the 2021 national budget to fund salary increases for Nurses II to VII. “The DOH stands by its nurses and has developed a proposed reclassification of the affected nurses with the appropriate level of salary and benefits in accordance with the law,” Duque said. But the FNU criticized the DOH for its inaction on hospitals forcing nurses to validate their own demotion, and its failure to provide medical front-liners hazard pay and special risk allowance as promised by the government.
During the Senate interpellation on the budget on Wednesday, the DOH itself said that 16,764 health workers and emergency hires had not received those benefits due to lack of funding.
Under President Duterte’s Administrative Order No. 35, health workers are entitled to receive a hazard pay of P3,000 for every month of duty.
AO 36 further grants an additional COVID-19 special risk allowance of not more than P5,000 per month.
Abenojar said that, since August, the contract for emergency hires no longer included the payment of hazard pay and special risk allowance.