A large organization of public school teachers on Friday threatened to walk out of schools on Nov. 29 to protest low pay and allowances.
At a news conference in Quezon City, Joselyn Martinez, Alliance of Concerned Teachers-Philippines chairperson, said their group would hold a series of [protest] actions not only in Metro Manila but also in the other regions.
“On Nov. 19, we will go to the Senate to submit the signatures we have gathered to demand a wage increase,” she said.
“On Nov. 29, we will have a nationwide sit-down strike, the highest form of strike. Teachers will not teach. They will go outside of their schools, while some will [just] stay at the [school] gate or quadrangle to dramatize our sentiments to President Rodrigo Duterte that we are not happy to get an increase of P551 [in 2019],” she added.
Teachers who do strike may be charged with refusal to perform official duty, gross insubordination, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, and absence without leave, according to Republic Act 4670 or the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers.
Margarita Lucero Galias of TeacherPh.com, an online community of teachers, explained that the penalty for striking is a suspension of six months to one year for the first offense, and dismissal from service on the second offense.
“Joining any organization is our right. But let us also keep in mind that any grievance or administrative complaint shall be conducted within acceptable democratic process. Let’s think twice before we involve ourselves in any mass actions or strikes,” Galias said.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones did not respond to queries for comment at press time.
Public school teachers are expected to receive P551 increase next year, the last of the four-tranche salary hike under former President Benigno Aquino III.
Martinez, along with Mabelle Caboboy, Quezon City Public School Teachers Association Inc. president and Benjamin Valbuena, ACT Teachers party-list secretary general, slammed Briones for failure to look after their welfare, saying they are overworked but underpaid.
“We act as barangay health workers to list down student-beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, nurses, librarians and even canteen vendors,” she complained.
ACT-Philippines wanted a P30,000 monthly salary for a teacher 1 position, a P31,000 monthly salary for instructor 1 position, and a P5,000 Personal Economic Relief Allowance from the existing P2,000 non-wage benefit.
Valbuena said lawmakers must include in the General Appropriations Act the “special hardship compensation” for public school teachers working in far-flung provinces, such as in the Cordillera Autonomous Region and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindano, “where teachers are forced to ride habal-habal (modified motorcylcles) just to reach remote communities.”
To date, there are 880,000 teachers from both public elementary and high schools.
The constitutional right of the people to form associations embraces both public and private sectors, pursuant to Article XIII, Section 3 of the 1987 Constitution, Galias explained.
However, the right to strike is not extended to government employees under the Civil Service Law (Presidential Decree No. 807).
Also, Republic Act 875 allows workers, including those from the government-owned and controlled-corporations to organize, but they are prohibited from striking, Galias noted.
The Civil Service Commission explains that by reason of the nature of the public employer and the peculiar character of the public service, the right to strike given to unions in private industry does not apply to public employee and civil service employees, including public-school teachers.
“Joining the mass action or peaceful assemblies during school hours amount to a strike in every sense of the term, constituting concerted and unauthorized stoppage of, or absence from work which teachers have sworn duty to perform,” Galias said.
While it is true that teachers are allowed to seek redress against injustice to the administration, they shall however, avoid jeopardizing the interest and welfare of the learners whose right to learn must be respected, according to the Code of Ethics for Professional Teachers, Article VI section 4.
Participation in organization activities are allowed outside school hours or with consent from the school authorities if within school hours (RA 4670 sec. 28b).
“If the participation is done during school hours, a return to work order or memorandum may be issued by our school head to remind us of the possible consequence of joining the mass action. This directive must not in any way be disregarded,” Galias said.
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