Health Workers Labour unions are pushing for the Philippines Senate to pass the Magna Carta of Barangay Health Workers, a bill that aims to improve the working conditions of community health workers commonly referred to as Barangay Health Workers (BHWs).
BHWs, serving as essential providers of public health education, prevention, and primary care, have historically faced challenges in securing stable employment, fair wages, social protections and protection from political harassment.
The UNI Global Union – Philippine Liaison Council (UNI-PLC) has called on the Philippine Senate to fast-track the approval of the senate version of the Magna Carta of Barangay Health Workers, landmark legislation that seeks to protect the welfare and interests of hundreds-of-thousands-of Filipino Barangay Health Workers (BHW). The bill was approved on the third and final reading last December 12, 2022 through the efforts of BHW Partylist Representative Angelica Natasha Co as the principal author of the bill in the the House of Representatives . These workers provide community care to millions in the country – including first aid, maternal, neonatal and child health, and community-based interventions including immunizations.
There are currently around 300,000 BHWs, but with the growing population of Filipinos at over 117 million, the current number of BHWs is much too low to provide adequate attention to the healthcare needs of Filipinos. It also exposes the BHWs to fatigue and illnesses. The Magna Carta of Barangay Health Workers bill, aims to provide BHWs with comprehensive and improved benefits, which is a significant improvement from conditions outlined in previous legislation. Among the benefits to be provided are hazard allowances, transportation allowances, subsistence allowances, one-time retirement cash incentives, health benefits, insurance coverage, vacation and maternity leave benefits, cash bonuses, disability pay, and conferring Civil Service Eligibility for BHWs who have rendered at least five years of continued service.
“It’s crucial that we pass this bill to ensure safe and quality care and protect the rights of these essential workers,” said Myrna Gaite, President of the BHW National Capital Regional Federation affiliated with UNI Global Union. “We take care of our communities, it’s time that the community takes care of us.”
UNI PLC President Roland de la Cruz committed the support for the registration of BHW federations as legitimate Workers Association with the Department of Labor and Employment. “With the inclusion of BHWs in the Social Protection Floor and the inclusion of the Magna Carta of BHW as one of the priority legislations of the Labor and Employment Plan 2023-2028, BHW federations should be registered as Workers Associations to avail of the different programs and projects of the Department of Labor and Employment as well representations in tripartite bodies to be part of the social dialogue and consultation mechanisms of government”, de la Cruz said.
UNI Global Union, through its Asia & Pacific Region, has been campaigning for the improvement of conditions, social dialogue, and benefits, particularly in Nepal, India and Pakistan. The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed these workers to greater risks, as they were often without adequate personal protection and caring for Covid-19 patients both in urban and rural areas.
Rajendra Acharya, Regional Secretary of UNI Asia & Pacific agreed, saying, “UNI Global Union stands with the UNI-PLC and these community health workers. The passage of this bill will be a victory and inspiration for care workers everywhere, and we join the call on the Philippine Senate to vote ‘yes’ on this legislation.”