November 14, 2008
The militant Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) called on the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to release its data on recent permanent closures, temporary shutdowns and work rotations, and appealed to Congress to initiate an investigation on the effects of the economic crisis on the workers and compel the DOLE to publish its records on the matter.
The demand for transparency from DOLE came in as reports of lay offs of thousands of workers filter in from export processing zones. “The export processing zone (EPZ) in Rosario, Cavite, just like the export processing zone in Mactan, Cebu is reeling from the consequences of the recession in the US and the world. We know of at least four firms in the Cavite EPZ that have reduced its workers or its working days since September,” said Dennis Sequenia, secretary-general of PM for Cavite.
Sequenia revealed that the three plants of American Power Conversion, an electronics firm based in the Cavite EPZ with a total workforce of more than 5,000, implemented this November a reduction of its work week from the normal 6 days to just 4 or 5 days.
Renato Magtubo, PM Chairperson, declared that “To be forewarned is to be forearmed. We anchor our demand on the principle of transparency and for the purpose of so-called stakeholders having a firm basis on which to base policy proposals so that workers can cope with the effects of the economic recession.”
Magtubo asserted that just like the case in Region VII, the DOLE-Region IV-A office did not give out any data on permanent closures, temporary shutdowns and work rotations when requested by PM local leaders. “The DOLE should not be surprised if it is accused of a cover up since it is keeping its data from the public’s eye. Or if they have not collected any information at all then they are sleeping on the job,” asserted Magtubo.
Aside from the American Power Conversion, Sequenia also said that the following factories all based in the Cavite EPZ have been affected by reduced orders from the US:
• Daeyoung: laidoff 1,000 workers last September after it merged with Greever, another garments firm which absorbed only 500 of Daeyoung’s workforce
• Daijen: retrenched 400 workers after it was absorbed by Jeonlim, another garments firm, last October
• Headline: reduced work week to just 5 days since October; garments firm with more than 300 work force
Jobert Onte, president of the United Cavite Workers Association that organizes among the export zones and industrial estates of the province, argued that the epidemic of mergers and rotation by garments and electronics firms in the Cavite EPZ are coping mechanisms by capitalists as the huge US export market contracts. He stated that “Workers are the last to benefit from an economic boom but now we are the first to be sacrificed in the midst of a global recession that was sparked by high rollers in the casino capitalism of Wall Street.”
Sequenia also disclosed that the recent reduction in workers and workdays are on top of an earlier wave of closures and rotation by factories in EPZ about six months ago. He cited the cases of Cavite Apparel with a workforce of 600 that reduced its workweek to just 2 days and is offering voluntary retirement for its senior workers, and Ultimate Fashion which closed down and threw its more than 300 employees out of work. The PM chapter in Cavite also received initial reports that a Levi’s subcontractor in the Dasmarinas technopark will have no work for the coming week due to reduced export orders.
“Women are the overwhelming majority of the workers in these garments and electronics factories and most of them are the breadwinners of their families. It is the responsibility of the state to bailout them out in their hour of need,” Onte insisted.
Magtubo, former party-list representative for three terms, called on the Senate and House Labor Committees to open an investigation on the issue for the purpose of formulating measures for legislative and executive action. “The economic calamity demands economic relief. Congress must seriously consider the call for a subsidy for workers who will be laid off due to the crisis, for tax breaks for all employees as a form of economic stimulus, and for a thoroughgoing reform of the public employment program so that the four million unemployed Filipinos can have jobs,” he affirmed.
“No new employment is being created as old jobs are being shed. We have noticed that the job ads in the leading dailies have been reduced to just a few pages in recent weeks. The layoffs in the export-oriented firm of Cebu and Cavite are just the herald of a major unemployment crisis. The worse is yet to come unless we act now to save the workers,” emphasized Magtubo.