Friday, January 23, 2009

Laguna electronics firms shed thousands of jobs as workers push for subsidy to complement retraining

Press Release
January 23, 2009

A group in Calabarzon revealed that three electronics firms in Laguna have shed thousands of jobs since last year through outright retrenchment and forced leave. The Samahan ng Mamamayan sa Calabarzon (SMC) said that Integrated Microelectronics, Inc. (IMI), Laguna Electronics, Inc. (LEI) and Amkor Tehnology Philippines have in total reduced its workers by more than five thousand workers. “Labor Sec. Roque’s statement that 5,000 workers lost jobs in Laguna is an underestimation,” asserted Ramil Cangayao, chairperson of SMC.

In the midst of reports of massive layoffs, the Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) pushed for a subsidy for retrenched workers as it argued that retraining is not enough. “DOLE’s retraining programs have been failures in the past. And the reason is that workers are too distressed by concern over their families’ daily survival to concentrate on learning new skills for their future work. We have to study the most successful such program in the world—the Danish model in which workers receive an unemployment subsidy while undergoing retraining,” explained Renato Magtubo, chairperson of PM.

Cangayao stated that some 3,000 workers of IMI remain jobless today after being sent on an early vacation last December. The early holiday break was supposedly due to low volume of work resulting from the global crisis. The workers were asked to return to the factory last January 6 but instead of going back to their work, they went sent back on an extended vacation since the forced leave would continue.

They were also informed that if orders do not pick up by January 19 then workers will be permanently terminated. At the end of this month, the thousands of workers would know who will be terminated and who will remain on leave based on their performance evaluation. “Yet workers are complaining of discrimination since there are cases of employees with above average ratings who remain on leave while others with below average performance who were allowed to return to work last January 6,” Cangayao disclosed.

Before the onset of the crisis, IMI had 14,000 workers in two plants in Laguna Technopark and LIIP. Among its products are optical disk drives, liquid crystal displays for cellular phones and printed circuit boards (PCB’s) that are primarily exported to the US.

In the case of LEI, workers were retrenched last November. Before the crisis, LEI had around 2,000 workers but it had been reduced to just 1,000. There were previously 1,000 regular workers, now it is down to 500. Also the working week has been shortened from six to just five days. “Yet it is a contradiction that while it reduces its workforce, LEI outsources work on its PCB’s to IMI,” insisted Cangayao.

Meanwhile Amkor announced to its workers that 25% of its workforce will be laid off this January in addition to the 700 workers who were offered voluntary resignation last year and the thousands of contractuals from three agencies who were earlier terminated. Before the recent layoffs, Amkor had 10,000 workers in its two plants in Laguna Technopark and another two plants in Muntinlupa that produce various electronic items like PCB’s for iPods, pacemakers and missiles.

Magtubo reiterated the call for a bailout package for workers that include a subsidy for displaced workers, tax refund for workers as an economic stimulus, and a reformed and expanded state employment program for the millions of unemployed Filipinos. “If the P9.7 billion in pork barrel inserted by solons in the 2009 national budget were instead allocated for workers assistance that would be enough to fund the subsidy to complement retraining,” Magtubo reasoned.

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