Press Release
August 30, 2021

Villanueva urges dialogue between gov't, health workers' groups to expedite payout of benefits, avert disruptions

Senator Joel Villanueva has urged the government to promptly hold a top-level dialogue with the health workers' groups in recognition of their services as front liners in saving lives in these critical times.

"Our healthcare workers are already overworked and exposed to COVID-19 infection. They deserve better treatment and they need not go on walkouts or mass protests just to compel the government to speed up the grant of SRA and other benefits due them," Villanueva said in a statement.

Villanueva urged the health and budget departments, as well as the Commission on Audit to take the lead and initiate the dialogue with health workers groups to assure them on the expedited release of the special risk allowance (SRA) and COVID-19 Active Hazard Duty Pay (AHDP), the payouts of which had been marred with delays.

"Our government has to resolve the delays in the payout of the SRA and the hazard pay which our health workers worked for. Government agencies led by the Department of Health should be able to show our health workers a clear plan of action to address the issue on delayed payouts at the dialogue, including its liberal application to cover more health workers from the janitors to those directly attending to COVID-19 patients," said Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee. "A walkout of health workers could be catastrophic for our teetering healthcare system."

"Ang layunin natin ay umabot ang mga benepisyo na ito sa ating mga health workers sa pinakamabilis na paraan. Kung kailangan, gumawa po ang mga ahensya ng isang chat group para mas mabilis ang coordination. Magandang na mapagusapan na rin ng mga ahensya tulad ng DOH, DBM at COA, at ipakita itong magiging kasunduan sa mga health workers," he said. "Malinaw rin po na anumang mungkahi na makapagpapabilis ng payout sa benepisyo ay dapat may basbas ng DBM at COA."

Health workers' groups have mulled mass action on Sept. 1 to protest the delayed payments of the benefits the Bayanihan laws accorded to them.

At a recent hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing into the audit findings of the health department, Villanueva scored the agency for delays into the payout of benefits of health workers, adding that the DOH "should be transparent, trace the funds, and call on its regional offices to expedite the release of these SRAs due to our health workers."

While both the SRA and AHDP are postpaid benefits, to be given after proof of duty rendered, the possibility of including part of it in the monthly pay should be explored, Villanueva said.

"The government should set a presumptive minimum amount per identified worker, include this amount in the monthly pay, and whatever is lacking shall be settled through salary differential," he said.

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