SENATE President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto yesterday said the government should also give hazard pay to private janitors, guards, and maintenance men in public hospitals.
Recto explained that janitors and security guards stand shoulder to shoulder with medical staff in public hospitals, but because of their status as private service providers, they are not entitled to hazard and hardship pay despite facing the same health risks.
“They are unheralded, but they’re important cogs that keep hospitals running,” Recto 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 said.
Despite their vital role, Recto said most of these workers “quietly toil on minimum pay.”
“In the war against COVID-19, they report to their battle stations every day with the smallest of compensations,” he said.
He urged the DOH, the DBM and both houses of Congress to come up with a package on augmenting the private frontliners’ salary “for the high-risk work they do.”
But the “fasttrack route”, Recto said, is for the President to issue an order granting them benefits. “A cross subsidy is allowed under the law.”
“And why should we not, when we’ve given tens of billions of ayuda 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 said.
Recto said workers deployed by private contractors in public hospitals are caught in a limbo.
“They are low paid but are still classified as employed—thus disqualifying them for emergency government aid for the jobless. And because they’re private employees, they’re not entitled to hazard pay given to state workers.”
Recto said contracted janitors and sanitation workers are “virus killers” who keep hospitals clean, “one scrub, one mop, one wipe at a time.”
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 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.