MANILA – The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) on Monday urged the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF) to suspend the implementation of an order by the Department of Education (DepEd) that sets alternative work arrangements for education workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter to Health Secretary Francisco Duque, co-chair of the IATF, the country’s largest teachers’ union also called for a review and revision of DepEd’s health protocols in offices and schools.
ACT said many teachers and school staff have been required to physically report to their offices “sans clear and adequate health and safety protection” ever since DepEd Order No. 11 Series of 2020 was implemented.
The order lists down alternative work arrangements that undersecretaries, assistant secretaries and regional directors can implement in their respective jurisdiction while the country continued to face the threat of COVID-19, which has disrupted traditional work settings.
Public school teachers returned to work on June 1 but most carried out their tasks from home, in line with the DepEd’s telecommuting policy. Since June 22, DepEd personnel have been following new work schemes set by officials.
Since the implementation of new work arrangements, ACT said it has received complaints that education workers vulnerable to COVID-19—such as seniors and pregnant women—were required to physically report to offices.
Teachers were also required to disinfect schools and conduct house-to-house visits for enrollment, among others, ACT said in the letter.
“The reports show that the issued orders failed to protect, if not actually enabled the exposure of our teachers and staff to grave risks amid the pandemic,” ACT said.
“We are calling for the immediate suspension of D.O. No. 11 and putting all teachers and staff under work-from-home arrangements until adequate preventive measures are installed in worksites,” the group added.
ACT also said they found the health standards in DepEd offices and schools, released last Friday through an order, “sorely lacking of the needed provisions” to ensure the safety of education workers.
The guidelines include a testing protocol in schools and offices; temperature checks prior to entering schools and offices; ensured availability of soaps, alcohol, and other disinfectants; and establishment of school clinics, and sanitation and hygiene facilities, among others.
The group asked the IATF, DepEd and Civil Service Commission for a consultation in crafting a plan for safe worksites and “teacher and employee-friendly” alternative work arrangements.
As of writing, the DepEd has yet to respond to the ACT’s letter.
Education Undersecretary Jesus Mateo has said physical reporting of DepEd personnel in schools and offices is not mandatory under the new work schemes.
The new work schemes must also consider the health and safety conditions, community quarantine classification, and travel limitations where the DepEd office or school is located, said Mateo.
Mateo made the clarification after another group, the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition, asked the DepEd to extend its work-from-home arrangement out of fear that the new work schemes would expose education workers to COVID-19.