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December 9, 2010

DepED-NEU: A History of Struggle and Victory!
By: GERRY SAUDI, Consultant for Information, Education and Communication

The notion of uniting all non-teaching personnel in the Department of Education (DepED) inspired 27 individuals from 17 regional offices nationwide to join hands on August 31, 2004 to form the Department of Education National Employees Union (DepED-NEU). Cynics chorused with skeptics in dismissing the creation of a national union as a momentary inspiration and a permanent delusion.

They argued that the law which required 30% of all non-teaching employees to join DepED-NEU before it could be formally registered with the Department of Labor and Employment – Civil Service Commission (DOLE-CSC) was an obstacle too difficult to hurdle, given their finite resources, the demands of work and the uncooperative, at times even hostile, DepED management.

It was a daunting task that only a few resolute and selfless individuals could hope to ever accomplish.

But, these did not deter the core group of 27. Instead, it served as a challenge that only fuelled their resolve to formalize their union in order to clothe them with the personality and the powers of a juridical entity. To them, DepED-NEU was their brainchild that would be lovingly nurtured and ardently cherished.

The succeeding years, however, were not easy. Combined with their own personal struggles and the conflicts that intermittently spiced up the workplace, the core group of 27 grappled with the perils of disunity even as it wrestled with anti-employee policies and programs of both the DepED management and the national government.

But fight they did. And to the hilt!

DepED-NEU hugged the pages of national newspapers while their shouts of protest boomed through national broadcast stations of radio and television. DepED-NEU was no longer a trivial band of 27. The ranks of DepED-NEU swelled to thousands as it stood tall and unafraid against the oppression and the injustice that many tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to perpetrate.

DepED-NEU was proudly called militant and vigilant – a watchdog that would subdue whoever dared to oppress and torment DepED employees, especially non-teaching personnel.

It had earned the respect and the admiration, perhaps even fear, of those who wielded power. DepED-NEU became one of the preferred resource groups in Senate and House Committee hearings, in consultations with Palace tenants, and in all fora where government employee welfare and benefits were the main agenda.

The inspiration that had moved the group of 27 in 2004 had transformed, five years later on August 14, 2009, into a light that shone brightly in the hearts of 9,288 non-teaching employees when DepED-NEU was finally registered with DOLE-CSC.

And this shining light has since then jumped into many more hearts as DepED-NEU continued to grow every day until, on November 22, 2010, the DOLE-Bureau of Labor Relations, the official registry of all public sector unions in the country, officially certified that DepED-NEU has attained a total membership of 14,082 rank-and-file non-teaching personnel nationwide.

This membership base has made DepED-NEU into the biggest government employees union in the country today. The distant second in DOLE-BLR’s list has a registered base of less than half of DepED-NEU’s current roster of members.

This fact was confirmed by Civil Service Commission Chairman Francisco T. Duque III in his congratulatory message to DepED-NEU officers and members on the occasion of their 4th National Congress on November 23-25, 2010.

This was also echoed by no less than the chairmen of the three House Committees that are concerned with basic education and culture (Rep. Salvador Escudero III), civil service and professional regulation (Rep. Andres Salvacion Jr.) and labor and employment (Rep. Emil Ong), in their separate congratulatory messages to DepED-NEU on the same occasion.

More important, this was even reiterated by House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., in his own personal message to DepED-NEU, when he said, “Public sector unionism in the Philippines is a relatively recent reclaimed right by government personnel. But, despite its newness, the DepEd-NEU now stands as the biggest union of government employees in the country. It boasts of some 14,000 union members consisting of rank-and-file non-teaching personnel of the Department of Education central, regional and district offices, including elementary and secondary schools, centers and attached agencies.”

Not to be outdone, Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada (chairman of the Senate Committee on Employment and Human Resource Development) and, more important, Senator Edgardo Angara (chairman of the pivotal Senate Committee on Education, Arts and Culture) both stressed in their respective congratulatory messages the fact that DepED-NEU is the “… biggest government employees union that is registered (or recognized) by DOLE-CSC…”.

Even Senator Ramon ‘Bong’ Revilla, in his own unique way, gave explicit recognition to DepED-NEU when he said, “The government and its citizens are fortunate for having dedicated organizations such as yours, who tirelessly endeavor to look out for the well-being of our People.”

And finally, His Excellency, President Benigno S. Aquino III, wrote DepED-NEU officers and members on November 23, 2010 to congratulate them and to say, “We are grateful to have you with us as we tread the straight and righteous path in fulfillment of our Social Contract with the Filipino People.”

Indeed, this acceptance and recognition by the highest official of the land represents the crux of DepED-NEU’s hard-won struggles for its members and for all rank-and-file non-teaching employees of DepED.

Its history is replete with difficult struggles and arduous challenges , but DepED-NEU conquered these all by the collective effort and the unshackled determination to win for their members and their families a life that they truly deserve.

Mabuhay ang DepEd-National Employees Union!