Four Walls and Beyond: Teacher’s rights, benefits Our union’s commitment

By FLORANTE LACHICA
www.nordis.net

(On this issue we launch this column, Four Walls And Beyond, to carry a voice from the organized section of teachers in the regions of Northern Luzon with the Ilocos teachers submitting the first content and taking the initiative to give its name. – Ed.)

Teachers’ Rights and Benefits…our Union’s Commitment

Angela Tapang, Teacher III in a public high school in Region I, flaunts her most modest expressions to win her co-teachers whom she seeks as co-makers to her loan application. Earlier, she decries the mandatory contributions for the expenses incurred during their town’s festivals. The Performance-Based Bonus which she labels as “Paasa Buwan-Buwan” is still uncertain. The meager increase in her salary and tax exemptions were made worthless by the unabated price increases. She said her most joyous moments and relief were run over and totally crushed by the government’s TRAIN. Yet, the due dates of her other loans are approaching. Her expenses for her family’s needs swell. She also has to make up for her husband’s medication and her children’s tuition, fares and “baon.”

ACT Pangasinan I Chapter President Marjohn Sante said most of the teacher-participants in the various teachers’ consultations they had conducted throughout Region 1 were having hard times struggling with economic difficulties. He said the teachers had no choice but turn to loan-sharks to make both ends meet, without minding they were putting themselves deeper into trouble.

“In 2015, three of the teacher-employees of Pangasinan NHS who failed in their promise to pay due to high interest rates were shot to death by an infuriated lender,” he said. He stressed the need for immediate economic relief for the teachers to prevent further incidents like these to happen.

The below par economic conditions suffered by the teachers are aggravated by the stressful working conditions in schools like enormous paper works, inadequate learning materials and facilities, large class size, extra workloads and other old-school practices. Instead of just focusing on teaching, they would spend most of their time doing instructional aids, school reports, checking test papers, computing grades and others. “We would burn eyebrows up to the wee hours, usually outside our work loads without us being compensated,” according to a Math teacher who refused to be named.

Adding insult to injury are malpractices performed by some school heads who take advantage of their positions. There are also principals who obligate their teachers to find ways, to solicit or take from their own pockets funds needed to procure learning materials, equipment and school projects, otherwise the teachers are alleged to be non-performers.

The common dire predicaments teachers fall into sets the stage for the formation of teachers’ Unions which is now spread all over the country, pushing the DepEd and other concerned agencies to urgently address the problems.

On our part, the ACT Region I Union is actively involved in campaigns for salary increase and for other rightful economic benefits. Although not yet as militant as other regions which can mobilize teachers in their numbers, we make use of all available means including groupie, selfie and the social and broadcast media to help drumbeat our calls. Admittedly, our capability is limited for now. But with our continuous and sustained efforts at organizing and educating the teachers, time will come when Ilocos Region teachers will have the strongest voice to fight for a living wage.

Our Union has already held a number of dialogues with DepEd Regional Director Alma Ruby Torio, raising various teachers’ issues and concerns in which the good Director notes and promises to act on them. In fact, some of the Union officers had attended the Regional MANCOM thru the Director’s invitation. More so, our Union’s Division Chapters are functioning as members of the Division Grievance Committees, Division Screening Committees and the Promotion and Selection Board.

To perform its duty and serve the teachers better, ACT Region I Union, is now a registered teachers’ Union with the Civil Service Commission and the Department of Labor and Employment, is currently working for its accreditation as the sole representative of public school teachers in Region I. Public Sector Labor Management Council Resolution provides that accreditation is required for the Union to enter into a Collective Negotiation Agreement (CNA) with, in this case, the DepEd Region I. The CNA shall contain provisions that protect the rights, advance the interests and welfare of the teachers. It shall provide them higher benefits, much lighter workloads and more healthy working conditions.

Marlita Leones, the Union President, explains that the CNA shall be consultative. “It shall be a product of teachers’ consultations. It shall carry the real sentiments and interests of the teachers,” she said. But the CNA shall come into life only if the Union is accredited. “The accreditation is no laughing matter. While registration only needs 10% of the teachers’ signatures, accreditation needs 50% plus one or simple majority. That is why we are working 24/7 to gather the required number of signatures,” she added.

The CNA is expected to make the difference. After its approval, the CNA becomes a law which both parties shall abide by. Both can compel each other to comply with its stipulations due to its penal provision. And it shall cover all School Division Offices, public secondary and elementary schools in Region I.

The dismal condition of our teachers lingers on for years. The efforts made by the government are just band aid solutions. Our education policy makers may not be aware of the real score on the ground, usually carrying out foreign-crafted programs without giving consideration to our program workhorses – the teachers. Our Union being the vanguard of our teachers’ welfare shall make sure our voices shall be heard and be part of our education policy formulation.

History has proven that the only way to empower the teachers is to organize them, strengthen their ranks and mobilize them for their general welfare. Their basic demands will not come voluntarily. It requires their collective actions. Their benefits will not be given without a fight. And ACT Region I Union shall work to make these endeavors realized. Because fighting for our teachers’ democratic rights and benefits are our Union’s commitment.#

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We thank the NORDIS for giving us this space. Four Walls and Beyond attempts to provide our readers updates and significant information on our teachers’ struggles in Region I and neighboring regions. And also for publishing our press releases on our activities to convey our stand on peoples’ issues.

Florante Lachica is a public school teacher and the Secretary General of the ACT Region I Union.# nordis.net

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