“This is an opportune time for government to assert more regulatory power over private schools while protecting the rights of teaching and non-teaching personnel and ensuring quality education at the same time.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Teachers’ groups welcomed Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III’s commitment to look into their complaints on the effects to their employment of the implementation of the K to 12 program.
ACT Teachers Party said that Secretary Bello, in particular, vowed to do the following: fast-track cases filed by two retrenched teachers against Miriam College administration, look into schools that retrenched teachers through questionable claims of financial losses due to K to 12, and investigate whether such schools comply with labor laws on salaries and benefits, security of tenure and contractual employment.
Rebecca Añonuevo, one of the two retrenched teachers, said they were “very grateful to the Secretary for taking the time” to listen to their grievances. There is a big difference, she said, on how the new Labor Secretary treated their concerns.
“He took time and listened to us. He did not ignore our complaints and promised to speed up response to the problems of teachers,” Añonuevo said in a text message to Bulatlat.
Añonuevo, a Literature professor in Miriam College, was among 19 other General Education teachers who were retrenched before school opening last June 13. Añonuevo and a colleague filed complaints of illegal termination and withholding of wages before the National Labor Relations Commission.
“We welcome these commitments from Secretary Bello, given this data and the current reality that schools are using K to 12 as opportunity to violate security of tenure, avoid paying decent wages, and save labor costs by hiring more contractual employees,” said ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio.
The dialogue was held on July 19 at the DOLE central office in Manila. Tinio, representatives of faculty and staff of various colleges and universities, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT)-Private Schools, ACT-State Universities and Colleges, and the Council of Teachers and Staff of Colleges and Universities of the Philippines (COTESCUP) participated in the dialogue.
Concerned professors of San Beda College-Manila, University of Santo Tomas, and Centro Escolar University also attended the dialogue.
Hearing the concerns of retrenched professors, Bello gave a commitment “to ask the handling Labor Arbiters to act on these cases as fast as possible.”
The teachers also informed the labor secretary of retrenchment cases in the University of Santo Tomas, St. Louis University and other higher education institutions in Cordillera Administrative Region, which are being enforced in the form of forced separation, resignation or non-renewal of contracts. More are in danger of being laid off in the coming months until next year, they said.
The teachers who lost their job due to K to 12 said that they were asked by the school administration to apply to teach in the senior high school programs or what they call as “re-engagement,” but only as part-time, with short fixed-term, non-tenure track contracts—with lower pay and no benefits.
Bello said this is illegal, and the fact that the schools still hire teachers shows that they are still needed. He said the continued enrollment, the schools’ financial statements, and application for tuition increase are indications that will belie the schools’ claim of “financial losses.”
Bello then said that the DOLE will invite the mentioned schools “to explain and to check on whether there were valid grounds for retrenchment.”
Bello was also informed by the Cotestcup of private schools in basic and tertiary education with dismal record of compliance with labor standards laws such as minimum wage, benefits, regular employment, and occupational safety and health.
Bello then encouraged teachers to give more facts on layoffs and contractualization due to K to 12 so that the DOLE can investigate.
Bello had earlier committed to end contractualization under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
ACT Teachers’ Party also said that Bello also gave his commitment to streamline the process for its Adjustment Measures Program (AMP), the P500 million fund intended for the financial support, employment facilitation, and training and livelihood of teachers and non-teaching staff in higher education institutions displaced by K to 12.
The rigorous application for financial assistance under the AMP was also among the complaints of the affected teachers due to K to 12.
Tinio said “This is an opportune time for government to assert more regulatory power over private schools while protecting the rights of teaching and non-teaching personnel and ensuring quality education at the same time.”
Tinio said ACT Teachers Party and the professors will also pursue talks with the Department of Education, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, and the K to 12 inter-agency body composed of Commission on Higher Education and DOLE.