Congress urged to act on nurses’ pay hike

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    ANAKALUSUGAN party-list Rep. Mike Defensor yesterday urged Congress leaders to pass a joint resolution authorizing an increase in the base pay of nurses in the public sector, following a Supreme Court ruling upholding the validity of the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002.

    The recent SC decision bumped up to Salary Grade 15 (P30,531), from Salary Grade 11 (P20,754), the minimum pay of nurses retained by national government, mostly in hospitals run by the Department of Health.

    The Supreme Court early this month ruled on a petition filed in 2015 by the party-list group Ang Nars which said government nurses were relegated to salary grades 10-11 when they are entitled to Salary Grade 15 under the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002 or Republic Act 9173. Despite favoring the nurses, the SC said it cannot force government to implement the salary hike without a separate law providing for budget.

    Defensor, a vice chairman of the House committee on health, said, “The House and the Senate have the option to pass a joint resolution putting into effect the higher starting pay of P30,531 for nurses employed by the national government.”

    Nurses employed by local governments are also expected to benefit from the ruling, though their higher entry-level pay would be less than P30,531, and would instead depend on how big the province, city or municipality is.

    Defensor said a joint resolution is one approach, and depending on the overall cost, Congress could also simply authorize the sourcing of the money from the lump sum miscellaneous personnel benefits fund (MPBF) in the General Appropriations Act.

    He said Congress did the same thing in 2017, when it passed a joint resolution authorizing the increase in the base pay of military and uniformed personnel, and sourcing the cash from the MPBF.

    “Our sense is, Congress is ready to implement the improved compensation for nurses, as provided for by law and upheld by the Supreme Court. It is just a question of how best to do it,” Defensor said.

    “In any case, for us to be able to fund the pay increase, the House committee on appropriations has to ascertain the extra money required, and Malacañang, through the Department of Budget and Management, may have to certify the availability of funds,” Defensor said.

    Defensor said another way is for Congress to just include the higher remuneration for nurses in the new Salary Standardization Law (SSL) that President Rodrigo Duterte himself wants passed.

    In his fourth state of the nation address last July, Duterte urged Congress to pass a new version of the SSL meant “to increase the salaries of national government workers, including teachers and nurses.”