Locally-paid teachers of Muntinlupa were rehired three weeks after they were terminated. It was because they relentlessly asserted their rights, and proved that there is victory in collective struggle.
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – “We will win every struggle for as long as we all act together,” said Joselyn Martinez, secretary of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers-National Capital Region Union (ACT NCR Union). That is how Martinez summed-up the lesson in the victory gained by the locally-paid teachers of Muntinlupa who fought for their right to be employed.
On May 16, up to 83 locally-paid teachers in Muntinlupa lost their jobs after their contracts were arbitrarily terminated by virtue of an unnumbered memorandum released by the Department of Education in 2013. But the teachers mustered enough courage and acted together.
On June 8, all teachers who were displaced were rehired.
The Deped memo prohibits the hiring of new LGU-paid teachers for school year 2014-2015. It was entitled “Discontinuation of the Hiring of LGU-funded and Kindergarten Volunteer Teachers and Reminder to Hire Only Qualified LGU-funded and DepEd-subsidized Teachers as of 2012 for 2014-2015”
Cesar Gratil, president of ACT-Muntinlupa Chapter said the School Division Superintendent, Priscila De Sagun had wrongfully implemented the memo.
Instead of hiring the locally-paid teachers who are in the Registry of Qualified Teacher Applicants (RQA), Gratil said it was the new applicants or teachers from the private schools that were hired or who got the “national item” or permanent position in the DepEd roster. He said there were 102 slots for national items made available to the Muntinlupa Division for school year 2014-2015. When the memo was implemented, 83 locally-paid teachers were told that their contract will not be renewed.
“The right process is that the locally-paid teachers should be prioritized for the national items and not the new applicants. But the Superintendent did not recommend those who are in the RQA and the new applicants were the ones who got hired,” Gratil told Bulatlat.com in an interview.
The teachers’ group also said that there is a provision in the General Appropriations Act of 2014 which prioritizes locally-paid employees for national teaching items.
Frieda Canoy, 30, a grade two teacher at Putatan Elementary School was one of the 83 terminated teachers. She said they were all shocked when the memo was relayed to them. “Our principal told us, with a heavy heart, that our contract will not be renewed. What’s more appalling was that they informed us 15 days before our contracts expired,” she said in an interview with Bulatlat.com.
Excess of teachers?
Gratil said the superintendent reported to the DepEd central office that there was an excess of teachers in Muntinlupa. But the superintendent increased the class size, that is why it appears that there is an excess of teachers, he added.
“The DepEd’s memo on class size in elementary is 40 to 45 pupils. But the superintendent maximized every class size to 45,” said Gratil. He added that teachers were given extra load or teachers with advisory class were still given special assignments or other tasks such as handling organizations and canteen management.
In reality, Canoy said, the teachers are much needed in their division. She said the class size in their school reaches up to 60 pupils.
She added, “It is difficult enough to teach a big class, and there are still the special assignments from your principal. On one hand you are dealing with the students and their parents. And then on the other you are doing your lesson plan and the tasks assigned to you. There is a lot for us to do when we need to concentrate on our lesson plans.”
Teachers are even exceeding the six teaching hours load, said Gratil. “That is already a violation of the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers.”
Dedication to service
Martinez said locally-paid teachers are on contractual basis. “These teachers are basically contractual workers. They do not have security of tenure. Their contracts are only renewed after a year. They do not have the benefits that teachers with national items are receiving – these are GSIS, Philhealth, Pag-ibig, etc.”
“Some (locally paid) teachers, especially in the rural areas, even receive lower than minimum wage. In the urban areas, some local governments manage to parallel the locally-paid teachers’ salary to entry level of teachers with national items, which is P18,549 ($426.10) a month.”
But these teachers, Martinez said, endured the years of lack of just wages and benefits not only because they needed work but because of their passion for teaching. Just like Canoy.
“I don’t mind being a locally-paid teacher,” Canoy said. “I put up with whatever tasks they give me because I love teaching. That is my passion. Even if there are no benefits, at the end of the day I am happy and fulfilled because I have given my service to these students.”
For two years, Canoy has been handling a special opportunity class, a class for students with special needs. She said because she loves teaching, she accepted teaching in elementary even if she is actually a secondary school teacher.
Stand for what is right and stand firm
Gratil said the displaced teachers were determined to fight for their right. “After they were told that their contracts would not be renewed, these teachers called us to help them with their struggle. When we met up with them, they said they were determined to fight for their right because it is their livelihood that is at stake.”
United in their struggle, the locally-paid teachers with the assistance of ACT-NCR Union held a series of dialogues to air their grievances, from the local government level up to the DepEd Central Office.
“We held a dialogue with Mayor Jimmy Fresnedi and the teachers explained their situation. We explained the process of hiring and he, too, found it absurd why the process was not followed by the superintendent. He also said that there was an allocation for the salaries of the locally-paid teachers for school year 2014-2015 and he was only waiting for the recommendation of the superintendent to rehire the teachers,” Gratil said.
The teachers also held a picket-dialogue together with the ACT-NCR Union at the DepEd Central Office in Pasig on May 28. Martinez said Assistant Secretary Jesus Mateo gave his commitment to look into the matter. The next day, May 29, Superintendent De Sagun was told to explain to the DepEd Central Office the displacement of teachers.
ACT-NCR Union did their part by bringing the issue to the attention of the media and carried it in their protest actions.
On May 30, ACT-NCR and the displaced teachers held a dialogue with De Sagun. “All the displaced teachers were not immediately rehired after that dialogue with the superintendent. But we maintained our position that they should all be rehired,” said Martinez.
The next week, on June 8, all teachers who were displaced were rehired and some of them got national teaching items. “And this is because of the collective action of teachers. If not for the courage of these teachers, we could not have gained success in this battle,” said Gratil.
“We hope that this would serve as an inspiration to all other teachers who are experiencing the same problem. We should bear in mind that we have a legal basis in every action that we make. We should not be demoralized but instead let us fight together. ”
Martinez also said, “It was proven in ACT’s history that every struggle will be overcome when we act all together. In this victory, we have proven once again that the affected teachers are the key to this success. This battle would not have been won if they did not stand for their right.”