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.
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. #