More layoffs seen in coming months

Published by rudy Date posted on March 19, 2009

More Filipino workers here and overseas are facing retrenchment in the coming months, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) reported yesterday.

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque said Japan’s Fujitsu Ltd. has announced plans to axe 1,750 jobs in its Laguna plant due to the global economic downturn.

“Information technology system firm Fujitsu already notified us of their plan and the layoff will be effective next month,” Roque said.

Roque said this brought the number of Filipinos who had lost their jobs since the financial crisis unfolded last year to about 45,000.

The government expects 800,000 people to lose jobs, mainly in the electronics and clothing sectors, before the downturn eases.

About nine million Filipinos, or 10 percent of the population, were without jobs or underemployed, the government announced on Tuesday.

“Workers have been offered early retirement packages to leave Fujitsu Computer Products Corp., which makes disk drives,” said Fujitsu manager Ernesto Espinosa.

“We launched a voluntary leaving program and the reason for this is because of the global recession,” Espinosa said.

Espinosa said Fujitsu failed to save the jobs despite earlier efforts to cut working hours and overtime pay, which drastically reduced employees’ salaries.

“Because of that we have no other choice but to offer voluntary separation,” he added.

About 2,900 other workers will remain with the company, based in Calamba town, south of Manila, he said.

Fujitsu announced in Japan last month that it would sell an 80-percent stake to Japanese rival Toshiba Corp.

According to Roque, a team from DOLE has been dispatched to provide the necessary assistance, including re-employment facilitation for the affected Fujitsu employees.

Roque also reported that a number of Japanese ship owners have reported to DOLE their intention to layoff Filipino seafarers due to a lack of demand for cargo vessels.

“We don’t know yet the number of Filipino seafarers to be retrenched but those to be affected are those on board car carriers, container ships and bulk carriers,” Roque said.

According to Joint Manning Group chairman Ericson Marquez there were notices from foreign shipping owners of plans to lay up their vessels and retrench Filipino crewmen.

“In the next six months, we can see more Filipino crewmen to be repatriated,” Marquez said.

He noted that there has been a significant dropped in demand for cargo and container ship which have many Filipino crewmen.

“At this time, there are 433 containers ships that are on lay up worldwide due to lack of cargo,” Marquez said.

In the country, Roque said, there are 45 foreign vessels that are on lay up in Subic Bay and Davao.

Those vessels in Subic are on full crew, but those in Davao have already been laid off.

“There is still a demand for seafarers, but it is only for a particular kind of ship like tanker. If we don’t have those specialty, there could be dislocation in the manning industry,” Marquez explained.

Roque, however, insisted that recorded displacement among Filipino seafarers is still a “negligible” figure.

He also reported that the Philippines is set to enter into an agreement with Japan’s transport Ministry for the training of Filipino seafarers and granting of assistance for those likely to be displaced.

“This agreement would provide Filipino seafarers affected by the crisis to train and upgrade their skills while waiting for their return on board,” Roque said.

Roque also expressed confidence that the agreement will help the country in training more vessel officers, who are highly in demand by international shipping industry.

Roque admitted that thenumber of unemployed Filipinos is expected to rise in the next five to six months because of the more than half a million college and high schools graduates who will be joining the labor force.

“While there are companies that are opening up in the economic zone, we cannot easily absorb the new graduates, it will take us five to six months to catch up,” Roque said.

Meanwhile, senior member of the House of Representatives is calling on the Social Security System (SSS) to help ease the burden of laid off Filipino workers by providing involuntary separation benefits to them.

“In other countries like the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and Germany, economic assistance is also extended to people who are confronted with income losses due to unemployment,” Nueva Ecija Rep. Edno Joson said.

The independent lawmaker said this proposal “aims to give temporary economic support for those who were separated from work due to reorganization or laid-off due to retrenchment or other similar business decision.”

“Mass lay-offs are happening left and right, here and abroad. About 2,000 factory workers in Intel Philippines stand to lose their jobs this year,” Joson, vice chairman of the House committee on labor and employment, said.

The central Luzon congressman also revealed that “about 10,000 workers have been laid off since October last year (2008) and threatened to be laid off in the first quarter of this year in Samsung, Yazaki, F-Tech, Fujitsu, NEC and TDK, Matsushita and more.” — Mayen Jaymalin with Marvin Sy, Philippine Star

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