Hundreds of Pinoys losing jobs daily as world economy slows down

Published by rudy Date posted on January 24, 2009

Hundreds of people in the country are losing their jobs everyday as the global economy slows, Labor Secretary Marianito Roque said yesterday.

Between Dec. 1 and Jan. 19, some 15,600 workers were laid off, he told a local radio.

Over the same period, 19,000 others had their shifts or working hours reduced.

“Just for today it was reported to us that 458 people nationwide could lose their jobs,” Roque said.

But he maintained that fewer workers were retrenched nationwide as the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has only recorded a total of 34,000 workers laid off or now reporting for shorter working hours because of the global crisis.

“Based on the survey done by DOLE, we have 15,000 displaced workers nationwide and another 19,000 who were subjected to reduced working hours,” Roque said.

He belied the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines’ (TUCP) claim that the crisis already affected the employment of 35,000 workers in the Laguna economic zone.

DOLE-Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) office reported a displacement of over 13,000 workers, with Laguna accounting for only 5,000 of the total retrenchment.

Labor Assistant Secretary Reydeluz Conferido said the number of displacements until this time is not alarming.

“The number we are getting is still within our projection and considered manageable. We consider that during normal times, we have an annual average of 59,000 displacements,” Conferido explained.

He noted that most of the owners of electronic firms operating in the country are reluctant to lay off workers and are offering them incentives until the economic situation improves.

“Given this attitude, I believe the displacements will not be that big and it will just be temporary,” he said. 

Most job cuts in electronic sector

Roque noted that most of the job cuts were in the electronics sector, which has suffered from plunging global demand.

The sector employs 480,000 people and accounts for nearly 70 percent of the country’s exports.

Roque warned that up to 60,000 Filipinos could lose their jobs this year, mainly in the electronics and garments industries.

He said he did not keep comparative figures for previous years, but stressed “this is not normal and not business as usual.”

Roque added that jobs are still being created in the country, citing 600 new hires reported in the Calabarzon industrial belt where most of the electronics jobs had been lost.

“These are mainly manufacturing jobs that have no connection to the electronics sector,” he said.

Intel bids RP goodbye

Meanwhile, after 35 years, the world’s biggest maker of microprocessors is bidding the Philippines goodbye permanently.

Arlita Narag, Intel Philippines corporate affairs manager, reported that the multi-national company has shelved plans to put up a smaller assembly test facility in Cavite.

“There are no plans to re-open the facility. We don’t want to speculate, but it is where we are going based on the current business condition,” Narag said at a press conference yesterday.

Initially, Narag said the Intel head office planned to put up a smaller facility in Laguna as part of cost cutting measures to enable the company to cope with the financial crisis.

“The government is even trying to help us, but we are no longer pursuing the plan,” Narag disclosed.

From P444 million in December 2007, Narag said sales of Intel Philippines went down by nearly half to only over P250 million in December last year.

The total sales for the entire 2008 were a little over $5 billion, she reported.

While company sales were dropping, Narag said, employees were caught unawares by the announcement to close down its facility in Cavite.

“Nobody knew that the financial crisis would be this severe and that the impact to the company would be that intense,” she revealed.

Narag added that executives of Intel arrived in the country last Wednesday to personally announce that the company is closing down after more than a decade of operations.

“The meeting was very emotional, the employees were sad, even the Intel executives who delivered the difficult news were sad, “ she added.

Aside from the 1,800 direct employees who will lose their jobs by the second half of the year, Narag said some other workers from the company’s allied services will also be affected.

“Like the company which has been supplying local raw materials and those working in our cafeteria and those in the shuttle. But the number would be minimal,” she said.

While the company closure is being worked out, displaced employees are now undergoing livelihood seminars and will be provided with “competitive” separation packages as well as non-monetary benefits, Narag said.

The Partido ng Manggagawa reported that Integrated Microelectronics Inc. also retrenched 3,000 workers, and Laguna Electronic Inc. (LEI) laid off 1,500 workers and shortened working days from six to five.

AMKOR Technology Philippines also announced plans to retrench this month about 700 workers. The company previously terminated thousands of contractual workers.

Assistance to displaced workers

The DOLE is now looking at the possibility of granting a monthly subsidy for the growing number of displaced workers nationwide.

A labor official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the department has proposed giving to displaced workers financial support similar to that being granted to the poorest of the poor.

“We are proposing that a part of the conditional cash transfer fund of the Department of Social Welfare and Development be given to DOLE so we could immediately allocate it to displaced workers,” the official disclosed.

The official pointed out that the granting of temporary financial assistance is only a stop-gap measure so that those displaced can be provided assistance until they find a new job.

He said the DOLE would grant subsidy to those looking for new jobs or those who opt to avail themselves of the government’s training program.

Aside from facilitating re-employment and providing skills training, Conferido said the DOLE is also looking for ways to create a market for the country’s export industries, now reeling from the financial slump.

“Our local government units can promote sale of local furniture through their tiangge (flea market) so we could provide jobs to those workers who were retrenched, following closure of some furniture manufacturing companies,” he pointed out.

Conferido said DOLE is now in the process of capturing the data of all workers displaced by the economic crisis so that appropriate assistance could be provided to them.

“We already opened windows at the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Land Bank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the Philippines, especially for displaced workers,” he disclosed.

He noted that there is sufficient budget for the implementation of various government infrastructure projects that could provide immediate employment for displaced workers.

‘Encourage investors in RP’

In a related development, President Arroyo ordered the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) and the Board of Investments (BOI) to encourage investors to remain in the country and protect workers from being retrenched.

Mrs. Arroyo issued the order yesterday during her visit to the Gateway Business Park in Cavite where a plant of Intel is located.

A Palace statement said she directed PEZA Director-General Lilia De Lima and BOI Gov. Francis Ferrer “to continue assisting relocators and investors, including Filipino workers who might be retrenched, by way of the government’s jobs matching, training and retraining programs.”

De Lima and Ferrer admitted there is a slowdown in the manufacturing industry, but they said the closure of Intel in the country would not affect most of its workers.

The officials said majority of Intel’s workers would be absorbed by its sister company, Newmonix, which had bought more than half of Intel’s facility in the country.

De Lima and Ferrer also said Newmonix would be closing down its facility in Pudong, Shanghai, China and relocating it to the Philippines.

Ferrer said based on experience in economic zones, the electronics industry makes a strong rebound after a slowdown.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said all departments last year were directed to start putting in place measures to prevent retrenchments or to reemploy those laid off.

De Lima said the country’ s economic zones turned in a total of P443 billion in export revenues and generated 177,000 jobs last year.

She and Ferrer said the figure came from 894 investments and new projects approved by BOI and PEZA last year.

In their first meeting last week, PEZA and BOI approved P7.965-billion worth of new investments, a 117-percent increase compared to the P3.66-billion figure for the same period last year, De Lima said.

The Gateway Business Park employs some 16,000 workers and contributed at least $6-billion worth of exports last year, officials said.–Mayen Jaymalin, Philippine Star

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