Sunday, April 5, 2009

Workers challenge government on assistance package

Press Release
April 5, 2009

Workers of Lear, a factory in the Mactan Export Processing Zone which makes electronic components for cars, challenged the government to make good on its promises about alternatives to layoffs and assistance to the displaced. Lear again terminated some 400 workers last Friday and the workers believe a next batch of layoffs is in the works.

“Only last week President Gloria Arroyo herself was saying that electronics firms should not retrench workers and instead pay half of their wages while undergoing training. Workers cannot survive on press releases. We dare the government to implement its promises not issue statements,” argued Renato Magtubo, chairperson of Partido ng Manggagawa.

In response to the impact of the crisis, Lear announced to its workers that it is consolidating by shutting down two of its plants and maintaining just one. Among the 400 who were terminated last Friday were workers who availed of a retirement offer but others were simply retrenched without the required 30 days notice.

“Whether they availed of the retirement offer or were retrenched outright, the displaced workers received only a separation pay of 13 days per year of service. So we are asking Trade Secretary Peter Favila, where are other benefits on top of the separation pay that you were boasting last week,” Magtubo added.

The displaced workers of Cebu are also demanding that the government put into effect the proposal for temporary unemployment insurance. Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ralph Recto is recommending a monthly subsidy of P10,000 for each laid-off worker for six months.

Magtubo explained that “The unemployment insurance proposal has been bandied about in the media for weeks already. It is high time that it be implemented. Since retrenched workers will be receiving a subsidy of P10,000, we demand that electronics workers should not just be paid by their companies half of their wages but also receive from government a subsidy worth the other half.”

PM is reiterating its bailout package for workers in the light of continuous hemorrhage in jobs in export firms. The bailout includes subsidy for displaced workers from the SSS, GSIS and OWWA; tax refund for all wage earners; expansion and reform of the public employment program; extension of health care coverage for displaced workers; and moratorium on demolitions and evictions.

“It has been Black Friday for workers since the onset of the crisis before the Christmas season last year. An economic resurrection can only come about through a policy reversal and paradigm shift in the national development model. The policies of liberalization, deregulation and privatization must be stopped. The local economy must be developed by strengthening industry and modernizing agriculture based on agrarian reform,” insisted Magtubo.

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