One of RP’s largest export firms retrenches 250 workers

Published by rudy Date posted on January 7, 2009

The global financial crisis has taken its toll even among the country’s biggest firms, a labor group said.

Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) yesterday reported that Giardini del Sole Inc. in Cebu has temporarily shut down and laid off about 250 workers as a result of the financial crisis.

Owners of Giardini, one of the biggest furniture manufacturing and export companies in the country, has filed with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) a notice of temporary closure and retrenchment of workers.

Despite the filing of the notice, PM chair Renato Magtubo said the workers insisted that the retrenchment of workers was “illegal” since they were not properly notified.

He said the Giardini employees launched a protest action yesterday after only 50 of 300 workers were allowed to report for work.

“The company is required to notify the workers 30 days prior to retrenchment and it must prove its claims of losses or lack of demand,” Magtubo said.

The workers are demanding P5,000 pay and a sack of rice per month during the planned six-month closure of the company.

Workers expressed strong suspicion that Giardini is merely using the global crisis as an alibi to bust the newly established workers’ union, saying union officials were dismissed from their jobs last November.

Magtubo noted that the Giardini case illustrates the urgency of a bailout scheme for workers affected by the crisis.

“The GSIS, SSS and OWWA must use their funds to subsidize private sector workers, government employees and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) until they can find new employment,” he stressed.

Government gears up

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque, for his part, said the government has yet to determine the exact number of workers nationwide laid off from their jobs because of the economic crisis.

However, he said all DOLE regional offices were directed to check displacements of workers in all the commercial establishments in their areas of jurisdiction.

Roque also admitted that there were reports of temporary shutdown of companies and reduction of workforce during the past holidays, but the figure was very minimal.

The labor chief added that DOLE also plans to set up additional field offices so the government could implement necessary programs to preserve jobs and provide employment for displaced workers.

He said the government is implementing an emergency employment program that will provide temporary jobs for displaced workers as well as an income augmentation program.

“We successfully implemented these programs last year and we are just upscaling its implementation this year because of the economic crisis,” Roque added.

Although there were numerous displacements, he insisted that lives are getting better for workers despite the economic crisis.

“Workers got salary increases last year and tax exemption was granted, which is also additional income for them. At the same time, the prices of LPG and transport fares are now lower so they have more money in their hands,” Roque explained.      

TUCP offers help

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), in the meantime, said the government can tap unions and workers’ associations in the implementation of programs to cushion the impact of the global economic crisis on employment.

“Because of their experience and familiarity with the workers, people’s organization like trade unions and OFW associations will be better conduits to extend assistance to workers who have lost their jobs,” TUCP, the country’s largest labor group, said in a statement.

Alex Aguilar, TUCP spokesman, said trade unions and OFW groups can help monitor and process displaced workers and help workers reacquire jobs and other alternative income opportunities.

He said TUCP is prepared to take on this responsibility if given the opportunity, especially at this time when all sectors are required to unite and help one another.

“We can train displaced OFWs in the BPO industry, particularly in the call center and medical transcription fields,” Aguilar pointed out.

The labor center also offered to provide counseling centers for displaced workers who would require information on job opportunities, labor rights, legal representation, and information on government services.

The TUCP stressed that the current economic crises present an opportunity for government and cause-oriented groups to cooperate and use their respective expertise to assist workers.

“Government, employers, and trade unions have their respective initiatives to address the situation. It is imperative to harmonize these programs,” Aguilar said.

Meanwhile, four female Muslim-Filipinos stranded in Bangkok after they were recruited illegally for jobs in Bahrain arrived in the country yesterday after the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) rescued them.

PNRC chairman Sen. Richard Gordon identified the victims as Harnea Sanduyugan, 28, and Guiamela Esmael, 38, both of Buliao 2 Mother Barangay, Poblacion, Cotabato City; Nhoraisa Asi, 27, of Bagua 2, Cotabato City and Norhata Mentol, 227, of Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

The victims arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport-Terminal 3 via Cebu Pacific Flight 5J932 at around 4 a.m. yesterday.

Gordon said Private First Class Alex Omar, a soldier stationed in Kabuntalan, Maguindanao, and his sister Sarah, who works for Bahrain-based recruitment firm Al Baroon, owned by one Almusawi Japar, recruited the four.

They did not know each other until they arrived at the Bangkok Airport on different dates – Dec. 20, 21 and 22 – and got stuck in the parking lot.

Sanduyugan and Asi were promised jobs as office workers in Bahrain while Esmael and Mentol were to work as domestic helpers.

The Omars allegedly offered the victims a “lay-away plan” in which they will work in Bahrain at no cost but they will not get their salary for four months as their placement fees.

In a press conference yesterday, Gordon said the victims were sent to Manila and were met by an agent identified as Lucille, who was reportedly paid by the Omars to process their papers.

The four stayed at the house of Lucille and her live-in partner Isaac Bright in Bacoor, Cavite for 10 days before they flew to Bangkok en route to Bahrain.

But they were not allowed to board their Sri Lankan Airlines connecting flights because their plane tickets to Bahrain were not yet paid for.

The victims expressed fear after their recruiter, an army man, told them that they will have to pay P60,000 each if they come back to the Philippines.

Fearing arrest, the four stayed at the airport parking lot for four days until they met Raul Garganera, a Filipino who now works at the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.

Garganera used to be the disaster management officer of the PNRC.

He allowed them to stay at his sister’s house in Bangkok before bringing them to the Philippine Embassy after the Christmas holiday. –-Mayen Jaymalin, Rudy Santos, Sheila Crisostomo, Christina Mendez, Philippine Star

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