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ACT Rep. France Castro wins Norwegian prize for work on trade union rights

By Macel Ingles

NORWAY–The Arthur Svensson Prize for 2019 goes to Filipina teacher leader and ACT Teacher’s Party Representative France Castro for her many years of labor organizing and struggle for academic rights in the Philippines.

Castro won the award for her many years of struggle to organize teachers and fighting for basic workers rights in the Philippines, wrote the Svensson Foundation in a press statement.

Castro is invited to Oslo to receive the prize at Rockefeller on June 12.

The award goes with a cash prize worth half a million kroners or about three million pesos.

One of 10 worst countries

The Philippines, according to The International Trade Union Federation, is one of the 10 worst countries in the world for workers and union stewards.

According to the ITUC, the country does not respect basic labor rights such as the right to organize and collective bargaining, and child labor rights as well as against discrimination and forced labor.

The group also noted the prevalence of extreme state violence and oppression of civil rights.

Workers and union activists experience threats and persecution and have to fight for basic rights in order to organize and against persecution from the government and employers, the group noted.

Attack on trade unionists

In a press statement the Svensson Foundation said, “Despite threats and persecution, there are brave people who fight for trade union rights. The regime has attacked trade union activists among teachers and journalists. Some have been killed and many had been imprisoned. Death threats are not unusual. Police officers had also launched an organized campaign that publicly vilified unionized teachers.”

The group added Castro works for democracy and human rights and has worked as a teacher and took initiatives to start a union in Quezon City.

After a few years, she became the secretary general for the Alliance for Concerned Teachers (ACT) and organized the teachers under a common union, it added.

The first CBA

ACT under Castro´s leadership grew in a very short time to become one of the country´s biggest unions in the Philippines.

The alliance signed its first collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in 2016 for teachers in Philippine public schools, an agreement that recognizes the right to strike.

She has also been elected to the Philippine Congress where she has, among others, worked for the expansion of maternity leave to 105 days.

“As a representative of teachers, she has fought against neo-liberal reforms in the education sector and better work environment for teachers. She has also engaged in the fight against lowering age of criminal responsibility for children, and the abolition of obligatory military training in schools and against the killing of thousands of youths under Duterte´s anti-drug
war,” the foundation noted.

In Congress

It noted that Castro, in connection with her and her union´s advocacy for indigenous peoples rights to education, has been arrested by the paramilitary and arrested in November 2018 during a solidarity visit of the indigenous groups under attack in Mindanao.

“Both in and out of Congress, she has all the time fought for the poor, workers and human rights against powerful opponents,” the Foundation wrote.

Awarding on 12 June

The Svensson prize is given to a person or organization that worked to promote trade union rights and or strengthen union organizing in the world.

The award is an international prize started by Industri Energi and awarded annually by the Committee for Arthur Svensson International Prize for Trade Rights.

The prize is at 500,000 Norwegian kroner. Half of the amount will be
given to the prize winner and a certain amount will be set aside for follow up work connected to the prize winner or similar projects.

The prize is named after the former leader of the Chemical Union Arthur Svensson who was known for his international advocacy. #

Teachers commemorate World Teachers’ Day with protests

Teachers from different schools in Metro Manila marched to Mendiola last Friday in Manila to commemorate World Teachers’ Day with a protest rally.

Led by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) and ACT Teachers Party, they staged a National Day of Action for salary increase and against TRAIN Law of the Duterte Government.

Similar protests and actions were also held in Davao City, Cebu City, Southern Tagalog and Bicol regions.

According to Joselyn Martinez, National Chairperson of ACT, teachers experience the most oppression among government employees despite their leading role in social development.

The Duterte government failed in its promise to increase the salary of public school teachers unlike the military and police which was doubled this year, they said.

Teachers are also overworked due to oppressive policies like the Results-based Performance Management System and Philippine Standards for Teachers, they added.

They were force to attend different seminars and pay from their own pocket while their allowances are often delayed in arriving, Martines added.

According to Rep. France Castro of ACT Teachers Party, the P50 billion budget cut for basic education next year will definitely affect the budget for textbooks, feeding programs and other classroom materials.

The group also condemned recent harassments and intimidations against teachers.

This includes a threat of dismissal of Bacolod teachers if they push through with their planned mass leave. Police tried to prohibit Manila Public School Teachers from distributing leaflets and posters to their colleagues in the activity last October 4.

The teachers also slammed PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde about his warning of contempt to professors who teach ‘rebellious ideas’ to the students, citing that this is an attack following the ‘Red October’ Scare spread by the military and government cover up to the real issues such as inflation rate and TRAIN law.  (Video and report by Joseph Cuevas)

 

Teachers call for 30K salary increase

By April Burcer

Despite the rains, teachers from all over Metro Manila marched Wednesday afternoon (June 4) on EDSA to call for an across-the-board salary increase for mentors and employees in the education sector.

After their General Representatives’ Assembly earlier organized by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers-National Capital Region (ACT-NCR) Union, the teachers also demanded higher education budget and bigger chalk budget, among other issues.

The teachers’ assembly called for an increase in the monthly salary of non-teaching personnel to 16,000 and new teachers to 30,000 as proposed in House Bill 7211 filed by the ACT Teachers Party in Congress.

Joselyn Martinez, ACT-NCR Union President, criticized President Rodrigo Duterte for going back on his promise to increase teachers’ salaries even as he doubled the minimum wages of police and military personnel.

Duterte announced last month that he will increase the salary of teachers, although it will not be as substantial as those received by police and military personnel “because the government cannot afford it.”

ACT said teachers have only recently received a meager increase of 551 pesos per month under Executive Order (EO) No. 201 signed by President Benigno Aquino in 2016 that mandated a four-year pay increase for public sector workers.

ACT Secretary-General Raymond Basilio said that the Office of the President, Vice-President, senators and cabinet secretaries, on the other hand, have enjoyed the highest salary increases under EO 201.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque earlier declared that a special salary increase for teachers will only happen on 2020 when EO 201 is no longer in effect.

“They say we don’t have enough money for the teacher’s salary increase, but they have more than enough budget to pay for our external debt, for military expenses, the ‘Build, Build, Build’ program and pork barrel allocations,” Basilio said.

Overworked but underpaid.

ACT-NCR Union is also calling for better working environment for the overworked teachers.

Under the K-12 program, teachers have to deal with Individual Performance Commitment and Review Form (IPCRF) and other paperwork that eat up a lot of time, Basilio said.

Basilio added the limit of 26 children per class mandated by the Department of Education is also not being implemented, leaving teachers with up to 80 students per class.

Basilio is also concerned that the soon-to-be-implemented Learners’ Information System (LIS) will leave teachers with no sleep because these shall be held throughout the night.

ACT-NCR Union demands free annual medical and dental examination, regulation of class size and teaching load, provision of official time and union time privilege, and improvement of compensation during the next collective negotiation agreement to offset their overworked conditions.

ACT Partylist Representative Franz Castro for her part presented their effort to increase chalk allowance from 2,500 to 5000, augment the Personnel Economic Relief Assistance (PERA) to 5000 pesos, and provide teaching supplies allowance of 5000 pesos per classroom teacher per school year.

However, Castro said that it will not be possible to win this fight without the support of the teachers.

“Let’s join together in the coming State of the Nation Address to voice out our call for salary increases,” Castro said.  #

Election postponement erosion of democratic processes, poll workers say

Rank and file employees of the Commission on Election (Comelec) opposed moves at the House of Representatives to postpone the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK, community youth councils) elections (BSKE) for the third time, saying the move is part of the chronic erosion of democratic processes in the country.

In a statement, the Comelec Employees Union (Comelec-EU) said their hearts bleed for voters whose right to elect the Barangay and SK leaders are again shelved if the May 14 BSKE elections are pushed back for possibly another five months.

“While we fully respect the prerogative of Congress to enact and amend laws, including those pertaining to elections; we as election workers – duty-bound to uphold and protect the right to suffrage of every Filipino voter – cannot simply turn a blind eye to the chronic erosion of our democratic processes resulting from the frequent postponement of election of leaders in the most basic unit of our society, the Barangay,” the association said.

Comelec-EU said elections in the country must be held in regular, periodic and predictable intervals while failure to do so denies voters the right to elect the village and youth leaders or exact accountability from incumbent village and youth officials by way of the ballot.

The group also said precious government resources that went into their preparations may go to waste if plans of administration legislators push through.

“We remind our esteemed legislators that the Comelec has already printed the official ballots, election paraphernalia and all the accountable forms relative to the BSKE; the verified and certified list of Barangay and SK voters are already completed and posted outside all COMELEC local offices nationwide. Should we again reduce these to mere scratch paper?” the group asked.

Meanwhile, ACT Teachers’ Party Representative Antonio Tinio said effort by some barangay executives to push for postponement is a way to extend their terms of office.

“With due respect, Attorney, you’re so thick-faced to say the proposal is not self-serving. Many of you are third-termers already who should have faced an election process a long time ago,” Tinio told Liga ng mga Barangay president Edmund Abesamis at a hearing at the House of Representatives Monday.

The people’s sentiments—whom we are not consulting here—is for the elections to push through,” Tinio added.

Caloocan Second District Representative Edgar Erice also accused administration legislators of wanting to postpone the elections to coincide with the planned plebiscite for charter change.

“The people waited for their chance to vote. We are now playing with it. Why? Because we want it to coincide with the plebiscite! And why do we want a plebiscite? To approve the constitutional change that will contain a provision that will extend our terms!” Erice said.

Despite their objections, however, the House of Representatives Suffrage Committee voted to move the BSKE elections to October 8. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Teachers press for ‘delayed’ salary increase

Public school teachers trooped to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) central offices in Manila last June 16 to press for a ‘long-delayed’ salary increase.

Slamming DBM secretary Benjamin Diokno and Department of Education secretary Leonor Briones’ immediate rejection of their demand, the teachers said the two officials do not understand the hardships the teachers undergo with their “inadequate” wages.

The teachers were led by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers and ACT Teachers’ Party. *(Videography by Ivan Dexter Tolentino and Esther Anne Cabrillas / Featured image by ACT) Read more