May 17, 2015 – The Workers Assistance Center (WAC) hosted a roundtable discussion in its office in Rosario, Cavite concerning the presence of young trainees allegedly working in some of the manufacturing plants located inside the Cavite Economic Zone (CEZ).

Said trainees are under the Dual Training System (DTS) Program supervised by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and implemented thru accredited training schools and institutes.

WAC decided to hold the discussion as the number of trainees seeking advice on their training arrangement inside the manufacturing plants grew particularly trainees from the Chopil Manpower Institute Corp. also known as Chopil.

Newly-appointed TESDA Cavite Director Rolando Dela Torre attended the event along with the National College of Science and Technology (NCST) president and newly-elected president of training school and institute association in Cavite Mr. Emerson Atanacio.

Also present in the discussion were other owners of accredited training institute, a representative from TESDA Region 4A office, trainees from other schools, workers, and parents.

Mr. Dela Torre first explained the gist of the DTS Law and its benefits.

Christian Salazar, a trainee himself, recounted his experiences as he bounced from one training center to another. According to him, they (trainees) considered themselves as workers that receive wages instead of training allowance.

He also related that as trainees their workload inside the plant do not differ with that of the workers and some of them were even assigned to hazardous processes that involved chemicals which workers refuse to work on.

Chopil Trainees Appeal to TESDA Cavite

Months before the roundtable discussion, Chopil trainees sought WAC’s assistance through the help of the Hye Sung Workers Union (HSWU) to address their concerns regarding their training arrangement inside the manufacturing plant of Hye Sung Phils. Inc. located in CEZ, Rosario, Cavite.

25 Chopil trainees that also included Christian, each submitted their handwritten letter to then-TESDA Cavite Director Leticia Ogbac asking her office to conduct a compliance inspection on Chopil Manpower Institute and hide their identities on August 2014.

However, TESDA-Cavite official only gave the trainees an audience almost a month after most of the trainees were called home by their parents to their respective province after TESDA Cavite investigated the matter but revealed the trainees identities to the training school officials for the alleged purpose of verification if said trainees were really enrolled at the institute.

Thus, only five (5) of the 25 trainees who sent their letters to TESDA Cavite were able to meet with Dir. Ogbac.

At the said meeting, Dir. Ogbac repeatedly questioned the trainees of going to WAC for help while they are trainees and not workers. She also asserted to the trainees with the presence of staff from WAC that it would have been better if they approached TESDA Cavite officials directly than asking for WAC’s help with their inquiries.

The meeting that the trainees requested from TESDA Cavite office was also attended by owners of Chopil who were invited by Dir. Ogbac to the surprise of the trainees.

The meeting ended after Dir. Ogbac directed the Chopil officials to hand over the trainees’ remaining allowances and pertinent documents withheld by the institute.

Positive Result

WAC aired its view regarding the precarious situation of trainees under the DTS program.

Like the fact that the trainees are stationed at hazardous processes without or very limited protection. Likewise, if accidents happen, trainees are not covered by the Labor Laws but by the DTS law which provides very limited protection under such circumstances.

The TESDA regional office representative on the other hand explained that if there were violations in the implementation of the DTS program they couldn’t gauge if the trainees that they interview during inspections were telling the truth because they couldn’t conduct surprise inspections or visits.

On their part, TESDA welcomes that a discussion as such would clear things up and asked for cooperation from all stakeholders to improve loopholes in the DTS law and its implementation.

Dir. Dela Torre and Mr. Atanacio also urged everyone to write and forward their complaints in their respective offices so that, they could act accordingly.