Teachers, education workers to lead protest for wage hike, democratic rights

By Chito Chavez

Various teacher’s groups and education workers will launch a coordinated protest on Friday February 15 to call for a substantial wage increase and granting of full democratic rights to government personnel.

To be led by the militant teacher’s group Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) the other organizations participating in the demonstration include unions under the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) and Confederation for Unity, Recognition, and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE).

They have consistently called for the government to improve labor conditions in the public sector by effecting decent pay, providing benefits, and ending contractualization.

Joselyn Martinez ACT national chairperson said the groups also have repeatedly demanded for an end to state-propagated attacks against their unions.

“Congress recently ratified the 2019 General Appropriations Act following a dramatic standoff over billion peso pork insertions made by House Representatives, Senators, and even some executive officials. The insatiability of corrupt officials was disconcerting to see in the face of the dismal state of millions of Filipinos in poverty, and the resolution of the budget impasse was even more so. Lawmakers’ greed won the day—members of both chambers will receive P160 million each, with bigger names in Congress getting a couple billions more, all of which are akin to the unconstitutional pork barrel as these funds would go to their own ‘pet projects’. On the other hand, our call for a significant increase to our salary was not reflected in the ratified budget, nor were our other immediate and just economic demands,’’ the groups said in a statement.

They noted that “we are on the last tranche of the disproportionate salary adjustment under Aquino’s Executive Order 201, s. 2016, where most teachers as well as the rest of the rank-and-file employees in the government received paltry increases vis-à-vis officials who received as much as a doubled compensation’’.

As inflation soared for the better half of 2018 due to the TRAIN Law, Martinez said this pay hike was rendered insignificant as the surge in the prices of basic goods and services eroded the value of our salaries.

“Such makes our cause relevant as ever, to be advanced by no other than us collectively through our organizations and unions. However, instead of addressing our calls, we were met with profiling, harassment, and terrorist-tagging. The government vilified us for demanding better work conditions for education workers and for advocating social justice. Even as we sought legal remedies, we were failed by the state. The Court of Appeals (CA) recently dismissed our case on the grounds of technicality alone without regard to the substantive merits of our petition and the danger of condoning illegal police operations on legitimate organizations,’’ the groups added.

At the height of the profiling exposé, the groups claimed President Duterte attempted to charm and appease teachers and the growing disdain of the public by yet again promising to grant the overdue salary increase of teachers.

They noted that Palace Spokesperson Panelo even said that this will be effected within 2–3 months.

While the dialogue with teachers’ representatives and DepEd Secretary Briones which Duterte publicly called for, has not taken place, Martinez said the groups are expecting and strongly demanding that the administration take concrete steps towards fulfilling this promise.

“This is not the first time such pledge was made by Duterte, and each time, teachers are becoming more restless and fervent in holding the President to his words. His honor and reputation, or whatever’s left of it, are at stake in the fight for salary increase and protection of teachers’ fundamental human rights,’’ the group concluded.