Massive Layoffs Signal Global Depression

Silent but ruthless repression

The Department of Labor and Employment dubbed 2008 as a historic milestone as it posted only five strikes – the lowest rate in seven years. Last year was boasted as a year of industrial peace but the reality underneath such “still waters” is very alarming.

The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) recorded 211 new cases of trade union and human rights violations nationwide from January to November 2008. This is 23.7 percent higher than the 161 cases recorded in 2007. Almost half of these or 105 cases are violations to civil-political rights of workers including harassments, grave threats and killings of workers and labor advocates.

Three union leaders – Gerardo Cristobal of Samahan ng Manggagawa sa EMI-Yasaki-Independent, Maximo Baranda of Compostela Workers Association, and Rolando Antolihao of Global Fruits/ Lapanday Food Corporation were felled by bullets last year.

On the other hand, more than half or 106 cases are violation to economic, social and cultural rights of workers. Workers experienced ruthless attacks on their picket lines and peaceful collective actions.

A patent Martial Law tactic used by the Marcos dictatorship to quell labor unrest was recently revived. It involves the arbitrary arrest and filing of criminal cases against union leaders and advocates. About 12 cases were reported already including the illegal arrest of Atty. Remigio Saladero, legal counsel of the militant labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and executive director of the Pro-Labor Center (PLACE). He is only one of 72 leaders of progressive organizations in Southern Tagalog – 13 of whom were union leaders and labor advocates – who were charged with various common crimes.

These trade union and human rights violations are meant to cripple the independent workers’ movement. Its chilling effect certainly has contributed to the weakening of trade unionism in the Philippines, with the organized private sector now being only at 10.54 percent of the total workforce.

More storms ahead

This year, more layoffs are expected in the electronics, garments and other export sectors. The BPO will continue to have jitters with regards to job retention. Accenture Manila was reported to have dropped hundreds of workers this month. Intel Corp., a California-based and the first semiconductor firm established in the country, will shutter its Cavite factory, laying off 1,800 workers. This will put the number of retrenched workers in the semiconductor industry due to the economic downturn to 5,000 workers.

About 40,000 workers in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) stand to lose their jobs by the first half of the year according to PAMANTIK-KMU, mostly from the electronics and car manufacturing industries in the export processing zone. Amkor Technology Inc. will lay off 2,000 regular workforce by February. Workers of Samsung, Yazaki, F-Tech, Fujitsu, NEC, TDK, and Matsushita will also face layoff in the first quarter.

In Calabarzon, car manufacturing companies affected by the global financial crisis implemented compressed work week and other schemes that would likely lead to retrenchments.

Starting January, Toyota Motor Philippines implemented a Monday-no-production day and will “temporarily” get rid of its 500 contractuals and on-the-job trainees (OJT) by March.

Nissan retrenched 40 regulars in December 2008. The company will retrench 70 more workers in February. Keihin-Philippines plans to implement a four-day work month this February. Ford now maintains only 18 employees out of the previously 400 workforce. Isuzu-Philippines will soon follow the footsteps of its mother company, which displaced 30,000 Japanese employees.

Ford RP unit is open to lay-off options if the “industry continues its decline”.

Flexible work such as compressed work-week, contractualization and other flexible measures will be employed. The labor department approximates that at least 19, 000 workers are now covered by various cost-cutting measures such as reduced work-weeks, work hours or operations.

More taxes will be imposed by the government and the poor will definitely be forced to carry the burden. No wage hike will be given to the workers so that their families can weather out the current crisis in a reasonably humane way.

There is doubt that the government can meet its target creation of three million jobs this year. Even the seemingly rock-solid option of relying on labor export will be squeezed as OFWs continue to lose jobs abroad. Some 60,000 OFWs face the prospect of job loss by the first quarter of 2009.

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