THE Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK) has welcomed the recent passing of the Labor Education Act or Republic Act (RA) 11551 into law, but the group said that this is inadequate in assuring the rights of future workers—specifically senior-high-school (SHS) graduates—from labor-rights abuses.
RA 11551 integrates labor education in the general curriculum of public and private higher education institutions as an elective.
“This is a win for students, as they will finally be equipped with enough knowledge and know-how with regard to their rights in the workplace,” said John Lazaro, national coordinator of SPARK. “However, this isn’t enough as it only covers tertiary students, rather than both tertiary and SHS students.”
The youth organization cited that college graduates usually get employed in white-collared jobs, while SHS finishers most likely end up in rank-and-file work susceptible to abuse and exploitation.
Since the K-12 program allows students to enter the work force after finishing SHS, most of them do not pursue college education; hence, they won’t be able to benefit from the given labor education, according to SPARK.
“Another thing is that, labor education is just included as an elective in the general education curriculum…Students can get to choose whether to take it or not, rather than being mandatory,” he added.
The activists pointed out that making labor education mandatory will guarantee all students will graduate with full awareness of their rights as workers.
“If the government retains its mantra that SHS graduates are ‘job ready,’ then it needs to put its foot down on equipping students with knowledge about their labor rights in preparation for employment,” the group stressed.
Despite this, the organization urged college students to avail of this limited chance to learn about salaries and wages, employment policies, state-sanctioned benefits, grievances procedures and other political rights in the workplace.
SPARK members have long been pushing for a truly efficient Labor Education Act not only for tertiary students, but also for SHS learners. They conducted numerous campaigns, and outlined a position paper to emphasize the importance of making labor education mandatory, as well as its inclusion in the SHS curriculum.
After their years of lobbying, President Duterte finally signed this legislation into law on May 27.