DELAYS in the “contract bargaining” between a public school teachers’ union and Department of Education officials that would have improved the situation of teachers in three regions, including Central Visayas, were exposed on Monday, along with accusations that the agency had deliberately caused the negotiations to drag on for years.
In a budget hearing on Monday, Sept. 25, 2023, ACT Partylist Representative France Castro questioned the delays in the completion of the Collective Negotiation Agreement (CNA) between the public school teachers and the Department of Education (DepEd), particularly in Regions 6 (Eastern Visayas), 7 (Central Visayas) and 11 (Davao Region).
“Matagal na ho ito. Hindi ko lang alam baka may secret policy ang Department of Education kaugnay sa mga pag-u-union nang mga teacher under the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) dahil iba ho ang kanilang turing sa Alliance of Concerned Teachers. Nevertheless, nakuha na nila (ACT) ang registration sa Civil Service (Commision) and Dole (Department of Labor and Employment),” Castro said.
(It’s been a long time. I just don’t know, maybe the Department of Education has a secret policy on the unionizing of teachers under the Alliance of Concerned Teachers because they are treating Alliance of Concerned Teachers differently. Nevertheless, ACT has already obtained the registration from the Civil Service Commission and the Dole.)
The representative addressed her questions to the 2024 budget proposal sponsor of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) and Camarines Sur 4th District Representative Arnie Fuentebella on Monday.
Castro said there had been no update or developments on the CNA between the DepEd Central Visayas and the members of the ACT in the region for about three years.
According to the Philippine Government Employees Association, the CNA refers to the contract negotiated between an accredited employees’ organization as the negotiating unit and the employer or management on the terms and conditions of employment and its improvements that are not fixed by law.
Castro said the teachers’ group had made multiple attempts to talk with the officials of these regional offices; however, there was no reply to their requests.
“Sa Region 7, walang sagot ang management. Busy daw sila at tatlong taon na itong naka-binbin at sinasabi na busy ang Region 7. Ayan po, tawagan po ninyo si Dr. (Salustiano) Jimenez. Lagi hong busy,” Castro added.
(In Region 7, there is no reply from management. They said they were busy, and it’s been three years that it’s been said that they were busy. Go ahead, call Dr. Jimenez. He’s always busy.)
In a text message on Monday, however, DepEd 7 Director Dr. Salustiano Jimenez said they were still awaiting ACT Region 7’s reply to their counter proposal.
“We have been waiting for their comment on our counter proposal which, until now, they have not submitted,” Jimenez said.
On Aug. 29, 2023, ACT Region 7 issued a statement on the first day of classes for School Year 2023-2024 stating that the DepEd 7 had yet to proceed with the CNA between the two parties, with the union saying that their talks had been “intentionally delayed for years.”
“Several attempts have been made by the ACT 7 Union through letters of intent for the resumption of the CNA, but the DepEd Region 7 officials remain mum,” ACT Region 7 said, adding that without the CNA, the welfare of the teachers remains unattended to.
Jimenez refuted this claim and clarified that he sent out a communication inviting the new president and new set of officers of ACT Region 7 to visit his office for a dialogue.
ACT Region 7 former president Antonia Lim told SunStar Cebu on Monday that for the current year, the union had already sent three letters of intent to DepEd 7; however, the latter had not replied yet.
In the case of DepEd 7’s counter proposal, Lim said the teachers’ group had already sent an intent to have a face-to-face negotiation with the regional office to clarify the differences between the two parties, even suggesting a schedule, but there has been no development.
In the counter proposal, Lim said DepEd 7 had removed several provisions of the CNA that had conformed with the law, including vacation leave and many more.
She added that ACT Region 7 was first formed in 2012, until it was registered as a teachers’ union in 2017 with around 25,000 members.
It was only in 2020 that they had a first negotiation with DepEd 7 via virtual conference, and then in 2021 when they had a face-to-face meeting. However, the meetings were no longer continued, Lim said.
She added that in their interaction with DepEd 7, the regional office of the education agency had asked for more documentary requirements from them that were not already part of the guidelines, as she said a union must be registered only with the Dole and CSC.
She urged DepEd 7 officials to reply to their request for resumption of their dialogue on the CNA as soon as possible.
The CNA contract starts with the drafting of the CNA proposal that will then be ratified by the general membership of the union and then submitted to the employer for negotiation until the signing and implementation of the CNA takes place between the two parties.
Items for negotiation include scheduled vacation and leaves, personal growth and development, external and internal communication, work assignment, distribution, and transfer, protection and safety, facilities for handicapped personnel, first aid and medical service, recreational, social, cultural, and athletic activities and facilities.
In DepEd Western Visayas, Castro said Deped 6 reasoned out that it was not given by the Central Office an authority to proceed with the negotiations.
Castro questioned why there was a need for an “authority” even if the negotiations covered only the regional level.
She compared it to the National Capital Region, which already has three separate teachers’ unions.
In the case of DepEd Davao, the Central Office asked for a list of members as an additional requirement for the negotiation to proceed, but Castro said it was not a requisite in the guidelines.
“Alam niyo ho ang karapatan, ang freedom of association ay internationally acknowledged rights. Kaya hindi po pwedeng sabihin na wala silang time na mag-negotiate sa mga union,” Castro said.
She added that the teachers’ union was compliant with the guidelines of the CSC and DOLE on the creation of a labor union in a government agency.
Castro asked the CSC to look into the matter and addressed the concerns of the teachers’ right to unionize.
Fuentebella said the CSC will look into Castro’s concern and raise the matter to the concerned government agencies.
He added that as of the moment, CSC has registered a total of 791 CNA in the country among government employees.
Fuentebella also clarified that regional offices have the autonomy to enter into negotiations with unions.
“We will check on it. We will talk to the regional director ng Civil Service pagkatapos ng approval ng ating budget for CSC ay tatawagan po kaagad ng komisyon ang (region) six, seven, at 11,” Fuentebella said.
(We will talk to the regional director of the Civil Service Commission. After the approval of our budget for CSC, the commission will immediately call Regions 6, 7 and 11.)