November 13, 2008
The militant Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) disputed the declaration of Labor Secretary Marianito Roque that there have been no retrenchments yet due to the global economic crisis. Renato Magtubo, PM Chairperson, said that “The Department of Labor is merely looking the other way. Labor Secretary Roque has eyes but he does not want to see.”
Leaders of PM in Cebu claim that factories in the Mactan Export Processing Zone (MEPZ) and the nearby industrial estates have already started reducing its workforce and its working hours because of reduced orders from the US. Greg Janginon, PM Chairperson for Cebu, argues that thousands not just hundreds of workers, many of them women, have been affected by retrenchments, shutdowns and rotation being implemented by employers.
Janginon asserts that he cannot believe that the Labor Department does not know of the temporary shutdown of Altamode, a big garments factory located at MEPZ. Around 500 workers, majority of whom were women, were thrown out of work in a move that management claims was forced by the economic crisis. Janginon also disclosed that the regional office of DOLE refused to release any data to them about companies affected by the crisis.
“While government and business nitpick about the difference between a slowdown and a recession, the initial effects of the perfect economic storm are already being felt by workers in the export-processing zones,” insists Magtubo. “Instead of the government and business arguing whether a recession or a slowdown will commence next year, we should be discussing the need for a bailout and stimulus package for the workers and the poor to counter-act the economic downturn.”
Aside from the Altamode case, PM revealed the following data:
• Cosonsa Manufacturing Inc.: furniture factory in Mandaue City that exports 30% of its products to the US and the rest to China and Europe; filed at the DOLE-Region VII for rotation; reduced work to 5 days starting October and presently on 4 days of work; 200 workers affected
• Arkaine Industries: furniture factory in Jagobiao, Mandaue City; declared a shutdown last October due to economic crisis; 200 workers affected
• Giordini del Sole: furniture factory in Mandaue City that sells to local and foreign markets; management released a memo yesterday ordering a reduction of work from 6 days to 5 days; more than 500 workers affected
• Paul Yu: factory producing lamp shades for local and export markets; located at MEPZ II; workers believe that diminishing sales and cost cutting are behind management’s plans to relocate the factory and change its name; relocation to Carmen town in the far north of the province is planned for next week; 100 regular workers and 100 contractual workers to be affected
• Maithland Smith: garments factory in MEPZ; 50 workers, majority of whom were women, retrenched last October
• Neostone: furniture and stone casting factory in Mandaue City; filed for 30-days temporary shutdown in August and then closed permanently last September; company claimed lack of capital in its declarations but workers know of reduced orders from the US before the closure; 40 workers affected
“Workers demand that the SSS, GSIS and the OWWA release funds sufficient to subsidize all private sector workers, government employees and OFW’s who will be laid off due to the economic crisis. The subsidy should last until the workers could find a new job up to a maximum of 6 months,” asserted Eddie Jumao-a, secretary of the Neostone union.
Janginon also added that “As part of a stimulus scheme, the government must declare a tax rebate for all workers equivalent to 2 months wage, in effect giving them a 14th and 15th month salary.”
Magtubo meanwhile proclaimed “As capitalists pass on the burden of the economic crisis to the workers, the simmering labor discontent will erupt sooner than later erupt into struggles and strikes.”