France Castro of the Philippines set to receive Arthur Svensson Prize 2019

Filipino trade union activist France Castro has been awarded the 2019 Arthur Svensson International Prize for Trade Union Rights. The award honours her struggle throughout many years to organize teachers and to fight for basic workers’ rights in the Philippines.

From the announcement:

France Castro is one of the brave people who stands up for democracy and workers’ rights. She worked as a teacher and established a union in Quezon City. A few years later, she was elected Secretary General of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), and took the lead assembling teachers in one trade union.

Under the leadership of France Castro, ACT has rapidly grown to become one of the largest trade unions in the Philippines. In 2016, the union negotiated the first collective agreement for public school teachers, an agreement that recognizes the right to strike.

France Castro took the struggle for important workers’ issues to Parliament when she was elected Member of Parliament in 2016. She pushed for the expansion of maternity leave for all women to 105 days, a bill that recently passed the Parliament, and she has fought for higher minimum wages. As a teachers’ representative she has fought against neoliberal reforms in education and filed bills for the rights and welfare of education workers.

Besides these issues, she has fought against lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility, the mandatory Reserve Officer Training Corps in senior high school as well as the targeting of minors in the regime’s «anti-drug war», which has resulted in extrajudicial killings and illegal detention and arrests of thousands of young people. Together with her union, she has for years defended indigenous people’s right to education, an engagement that led to her being attacked by paramilitary forces and detained during a solidarity mission in Lumad schools in Talaingod last November. Both inside and outside the Parliament France Castro has been fighting for the poor, for working people and the human rights against powerful opponents.

The Philippines is among the 10 worst countries in the world for workers and trade unionists. The country does not respect the basic workers’ rights: the right to organize and collectively bargain, and the right to protection against child labour, discrimination and forced labour. In a context of extreme state violence and suppression of civil liberties, workers and trade unionists face threats and intimidation from both the regime and companies, and have to fight for their rights.

Read the full announcement here.

The prize is awarded annually by the Committee for the Arthur Svensson International Prize for Trade Union Rights, based in Norway. The award ceremony will take place on 12 June in Oslo, Norway.

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