OVERWORKED, UNDERPAID: Nurses hit UST Hospital’s ‘unjust’ labor practices

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UST HOSPITAL (USTH) nurses are grappling with poor working conditions in the hospital and vow to strike if their complaints are not addressed under a new collective bargaining deal.

A nurse from the UST Hospital Employees’ Association said the lack of staff is forcing nurses to serve beyond their prescribed and paid working hours, resulting in the decline of hospital services to patients.

“Doon sa unjust labor practices [na] nangyayari sa loob ng hospital, mostly dinadanas ito ng mga nurses. Kulang-kulang ang staff, [dahil dito] nagsa-suffer ’yong patients at ‘yong quality of service,” said the nurse, who refused to be named, in an interview with the Varsitarian.

The employees’ union has filed a notice of strike before the Department of Labor and Employment after negotiations for benefit and salary increases ended in a deadlock.

The USTH has 965 employees, 579 of which are part of the union as stated in the notice of strike filed before the National Labor Relations Commission.

Standards set by the Department of Health for hospitals state that a ratio of one nurse to 12 patients must be maintained.

But at the USTH, “they give one nurse the workload of supposedly two nurses,” the representative said. As a result, they are left to work 12 hours a day or 60 hours a week, compared to the prescribed eight working hours or 40 per week.

“Overworked kami compared doon sa binibigay nila. They are maximizing our manpower. Hindi namin pwedeng iwanan ang trabaho namin unlike an eight-hour office job. Sa amin, we need to take care of our patients 24/7,” the nurse said.

The Labor Code of the Philippines states that the normal work hours of any employee should not exceed eight hours a day. Beyond that, workers should be compensated with an additional 25 percent.

The nurse representative said they have suggested to the administration that the hospital close other units or wards to accommodate the number of patients. Instead, the USTH opened a new intensive care unit.

“Hindi masustain yung staffing. So hirap kami na i-meet ‘yung expectations ng pasyente, expectation mo para sa pasyente at para sa sarili mo, [kaya] ang labo talaga,” he added.

Another hospital staff member decried the USTH’s contractual hiring process, which began in 2008.

“Majority sa amin graduate sa UST. Matagal na panahon ang ginugol at maraming sakripisyo ang ginawa namin para sa pag-aaral. [P]agka-hire sa iyo, [you will just be] a trainee for five months with allowances but you will not be paid,” the staff said.

Newly hired staff were said to be required to pay for training fees costing P5,000 to P7,000, depending on their assigned division.

On Feb. 11, Monday, 399 union members voted “yes” in a strike referendum while only seven voted “no.”

The Labor department has reportedly put on hold the strike notice to give way to another round of negotiations between the union and USTH administrators.

Union leaders have refused to issue any statement on the matter after a supposed non-disclosure agreement with the hospital administration.

USTH administrators have yet to comment on the issue as well. K.V. Orbien and N.J. N. Servallos


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