MANILA, Philippines –Thousands of workers are being forced to take a leave of absence or put in shorter hours as the global recession begins to take its toll on local industries, the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) said.
“There are reports that workers are asked to take leaves while others reduced their working days in order to cut costs,” Sergio Ortiz-Luis, ECOP president, told The STAR in a telephone interview.
Others, he said, are being asked to go on a long vacation and wait until the business picks up before they can come back to their jobs.
Ortiz-Luis said these employees are not technically unemployed because even if they do not receive salaries, their companies are giving them allowances. “Officially, these employees are on training breaks. They are given an allowance while they brush up their skills away from the office,” he explained.
He said he does not know how much but the allowance is but that it is definitely lower than the regular wages. “Some are forced to agree to this because their industry is badly hit by the global economic crunch.”
Ortiz-Luis said four or even three-day work week and forced leaves are better than laying off workers. “Employers want to prevent layoffs. Their hands are tied. Business is not as good and costs must be reduced.”
Ortiz-Luis estimated that close to 20,000 workers have been affected by the two schemes. “Job cuts are the last resort,” he stressed.
He said he does not know how long the problem will last. “The number of unemployed will depend on the perception of consumers towards our industries. We must show a strong front,” Ortiz Luis said.
“We do not want to close down our operations. We do not want to lose our people. We will fight this for as long as we can,” he added.
At the beginning of the year, National Anti-Poverty Commission chairman Secretary Domingo Panganiban said the emergency employment and livelihood program will generate one million jobs by July instead of the few hundred thousand initially covered when the project was launched in October last year. Panganiban said the target is to create 500,000 jobs within the first two months of the year, steadily increasing to one million by the second half of the year.
He said this is on top of other employment generation efforts of the government.
Panganiban said more funds would be released to achieve the expansion of the program. The funds would be sourced mainly from savings of departments and the P300-billion economic sustainability plan to be funded from the P1.415-trillion national budget for 2009.–Ma. Elisa P. Osorio, Philippine Star