Labor council under Office of the President wants K to 12 suspended

MANILA, Philippines – The Formal Labor and Migrant Workers Sectoral Council of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) – a government agency under the Office of the President – joined other sectors that have been calling for the suspension of the K to 12 program.

"We call for the suspension of K to 12 and review of such and to address the issues of workers and teachers' displacements," Sectoral Representative Edwin Bustillos told Rappler on Thursday, July 30.

On Thursday morning, the council met Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Armin Luistro to discuss labor issues related to the K to 12, especially the possible displacements of college workers due to the expected drop in college enrollment come 2016. 

The K to 12 program will add two years to the current 4-year high school program starting 2016, leaving many colleges and universities with few or possibly no new enrollees in the next two academic years.

The latest figures from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) showed 13,634 teaching staff and 11,456 non-teaching staff may be displaced because of the program.

The initial numbers with the council is much higher – more or less 50,000 college workers.

Both sides want to reconcile the numbers so that government can better respond to the problem.

But Luistro assured the council that DepEd will prioritize displaced college workers in its hiring needs for senior high school: 30,000 teaching staff and 6,000 non-teaching staff every year for 2016 and 2017.

"Ang challenge sa amin is to present data to contest figures of CHED na ito lang ang madi-displace," Bustillos said. They will also monitor the department's promise to prioritize college workers in hiring.

(The challenge for us is to present data to contest CHED figures that only this many will be displaced.)

Safety nets

The council also raised concerns about the security of tenure of workers in schools with no unions and workers in state universities and colleges.

"They have safety nets, but it depends if those are enough for workers that will potentially be displaced. As far as presentation is concerned, they were able to say something," Bustillos said in a mix of English and Filipino.

One safety net, for example, is that professors who will decide to teach in public senior high schools will not have to worry about fees needed in retooling

The council, however, wants the safety nets institutionalized to protect the workers regardless of whether or not the next education secretary is "reform-minded." After all, the full implementation of K to 12 is not until 2016, and a new administration will be taking over by then.

"Our stand is that for those that will be displaced, CHED, DepEd and DOLE have to harmonize their proposals. If there really are funds that would really address the retooling, it's better if we see it in full," Bustillos said.

'Continue to dialogue'

He clarified that the council is not against K to 12 even if they're calling for the suspension of the program. In fact, they recognize K to 12 as a "breakthrough" in Philippine education.

However, they have issues with the program that need to be resolved. Bustillos said Luistro is "sincere" in addressing these, but whether government can ensure workers' protection "remains to be seen" in 2016.

"NAPC is calling for the suspension of K to 12, but while the legal process is ongoing, we shouldn't be tied down to the legal process. Continue to dialogue – that's what we're doing while waiting for the resolution of SC. We continue to engage with DOLE, DepEd, and CHED," he explained.

To date, at least 5 petitions have been filed before the SC, asking for the suspension of K to 12. Critics cited labor issues, the inadequacy of a proposed P29-billion transition fund for the program, and questions on the law's constitutionality as basis for junking the program. (READ: SC urged: Suspend K to 12, let Grade 10 students take UPCAT)

The High Court has since ordered the consolidation of all petitions challenging the controversial program, but Luistro is confident no one can stop the K to 12 at this stage, seeing nothing unconstitutional about it. – Rappler.com

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.

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