“Join us in our strike on Nov. 29 and show this government our rage.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – It’s only a month to go before Christmas but public school teachers said they are far from celebrating as this year will be their “most impoverished holiday.”
Public school teachers under the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) lament that because of the meager salaries they currently receive, they could not cope with the high prices of consumer products. Ibon executive editor and research head Rosario Bella Guzman explained that the salaries of public school teachers, as well as the rest of government employees, have been eroded despite the implementation of Executive Order 201 or the salary standardization 4 of the Aquino administration.
Guzman said the imposition of consumption taxes under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) has contributed to the steep acceleration of the inflation rate resulting in the haste erosion of the real value of salaries of teachers and non-teaching personnel.
In a media forum on Friday, Nov. 16, public school teachers expressed their disappointment onthe government’s inaction to their legitimate demands. They announced that on Nov. 29, public school teachers across the country will hold a sit-down strike to press President Duterte’s administration to heed their demands.
TRAIN law further weakens purchase power
With the TRAIN law, price hikes became rapid and much higher due to the higher taxes stipulated in the law.
According to Ibon, employed people who have meager income are the ones who are greatly affected by the steep acceleration of inflation.
This is why even with the increase of government employees’ salaries in 2016, which is supposed to be given in four tranches, they could still not cope with high prices of commodities.
Guzman said that since 2016, the real value of salaries of those in the Teacher 1 and Teacher 2 levels declined by P423 ($8) and P47 ($.89) respectively. Teacher 1 receives 1 P20,179 or $384 while Teacher 2 receives P22,149 or $421.
The real value of salaries of those in the Teacher 3 level receiving P24,224 ($461) per month has increased only by a negligible 1.5 percent since the annual 4.2 percent tranches of increases were applied.
Meanwhile, non-academic employees who receive P9,660 ($84) per month have lost P322 ($6) off their purchasing power.
Guzman said the lower real values referenced to 2016 have taken effect in 2018 – by October for Teacher 2, June for Teacher 1, and as early as March for the non-academic employees.
“With the unabated inflation, it won’t be long for Teacher 3’s purchasing power to decline as well,” Guzman warned.
More work not less pay
Samuel Sonio, 42, teacher at Santolan High School in Pasig had to find extra income to augment his salary. He said it is not only to provide for his family but also to fund educational materials they needed especially now that they also have to catch up with developments in technology.
“We needed to make ways to make the students listen and focus on our lessons so we have to go beyond what is usual now,” he told Bulatlat in an interview. He said they had to loan to buy LCD screen for their classes as funds for additional equipment are also limited.
They also spend for the materials needed for school activities as collecting donations or contributions are prohibited in public schools. Add to that the reference materials they need for teaching, which they also shell out from their own pocket if there is no other choice but to purchase one.
Public school teachers also have to spend to comply with the policies of the Department of Education such as the Results-based Performance Management System (RPMS).
ACT national chairperson Joselyn Martinez also lament that teachers also perform other tasks, they are nurse, nutritionist, social worker and even statistician.
“Instead of a salary increase, they have been given additional tasks,” she said.
“We have labored hard the whole year round and our education workers deserve a more decent living. We call on the Duterte government to be more decisive in arresting the rapid decline of our economic condition,” Martinez said.
‘Salary increase now!’
Guzman said there is no other solution to the crisis being experienced by teachers but a salary increase.
“The government has funds that they collect from the people. They can use it to fund the increase,” she said adding that in other countries, governments increase the salaries of workers in times of inflation.
She also said that additional taxes like the TRAIN law should also be stopped. She said imposing new taxes without a salary increase is illogical. “The prices are increasing but the salaries are stagnant. That is where the crisis begins,” she said.