Our government has all the banners of acknowledgement for our teachers. But on matters that are important, on matters of rights and dignity, and on matters that could improve the quality of teachers’ lives concretely, our government seems to be deaf and blind to the calls of our teachers who want nothing but a humane and dignified treatment.
By VINCENT L. CASIL
September 5 marks the start of the National Teacher’s Month, and its end, October 5, marks the celebration of World Teacher’s Day.
On this occasion, the whole nation and the world pay gratitude to our teachers, instructors, professors, tutors, educators. During this time, the media is swamped with greetings and adulations dedicated to these agents of education. Teachers, as the cliché goes, are nation-builders. Anyone functioning in society owes it to these people who taught them how to write, read, calculate, and even think. These celebrations thus intend to recognize the value of our teachers—their unnoticed heroism.
While everyone lauds them, gives thanks, praises, and recognition, a significant number of our teachers, however, are still working under unjust conditions. They are unrecognized. They are the teachers who are hired under “job order” contract, an agreement which does not guarantee any working rights. In practice, it is a contract where a teacher is hired by a government-funded educational institution to do teaching-related jobs, while the hirer (e.g. the involved school and government agency) does not provide any “employer-employee relationship.”
ACT Teachers Party-List Representative Antonio L. Tinio said 80,000 teachers are working under these unjust terms. Without any employer-employee relationship, these teachers suffer “exploitative and discriminatory compensation, benefits, and working conditions.” Teachers, under this contract, can be fired any time during the school-year whether justifiable or not. They also don’t receive benefits such as thirteenth-month pay, and don’t have the right to unionize.
The job order contract could have been first inspired with good intentions. The contract could have been drafted to expedite the hiring for short-period workers. Yet, it does not mean it actually serves its only intended purpose. In reality, the job order contract has become a basis for exploiting teachers. In this agreement, teachers could be easily cheated of what they deserved to have.
Hiring via job order may be legal but it does not make it ethical. Being legal does not make it right. Rep. Tinio said that such practice is contrary to the principles of ensuring the teaching job of “adequate remuneration and other means of job satisfaction and fulfillment,” which the 1987 Constitution supports. It also violates The Magna Carta of Public School Teachers.
Generally, the job order contract is opposed to the basic rights of a human being. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that every person has the right for “favorable conditions of work” and “protection against unemployment.” Workers also have “right to form and to join trade unions,” and most of all, workers have the right for a work and compensation “worthy of human dignity.”
The job order contract, which holds no employer-employee relationship, simply contradicts common sense. These teachers are hired and are performing teaching-related works in the schools. Although some teachers are underqualified, they do the work as those who are qualified: they lecture, manage classes, wear the same uniforms, organize and participate in extracurricular activities. They are being paid and taxed by the schools and its related government unit.
Now, if this arrangement does not involve any employer-employee relationship, then what is the proper term to use? A pseudo-relationship? A loving and friendly relationship?
The question then emerges: how is the term “employer-employee relationship” transformed to be so technical that it could no longer be applied to the simple and concrete conditions of producing, working, being hired, and being paid? How does the “employer-employee relationship” become so elite and exclusive that even educators, who are making the schools and universities function, and who are part of the life and blood of learning, could be, technically, not employed?
In July 2013, the ACT Teachers Party-List proposed House Bill 442, a bill that prohibits the hiring of teachers under a job order contract. Up to now, there’s no news of any progress, or worse, there’s no hope that the bill could become a law.
The issue of job order contract is not even on the same level as the issue of salary increase and just compensation. Teachers calling for a wage hike do not ask for mansions or luxury cars. And job-order teachers are just demanding due recognition as teachers, a right that is due and basic for a worker, for an educator.
It is just ironic how our society lauds our teachers with great value, celebrating a month dedicated for them, yet in reality, they are dehumanized, treated without the respect and protection they deserved.
It is more comical because it is the government that primarily implements the job order agreement. Government units, which should supposedly protect our teachers, are the same agents that hire public teachers in job order terms—a contract that does not even recognize any worker’s rights, a practice that is utterly backward and unethical.
Our government has all the banners of acknowledgement for our teachers. In fact, it was Pres. Aquino who stretched the teachers’ recognition from a single day into a National Teacher’s Month. But on matters that are important, on matters of rights and dignity, and on matters that could improve the quality of teachers’ lives concretely, our government seems to be deaf and blind to the calls of our teachers who want nothing but a humane and dignified treatment.