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Cutting back jobs, breaking down unions

Massive retrenchments in the first half of 2014
  Behind reports of astounding increased job generation in the first quarter of 2014, thousands of workers were rendered jobless as successive closures and massive retrenchments were done by several companies. Apart from leaving workers and their families with hardly any source of income, lay-offs also meant losing workers’ organization which they long struggled to build. Abrupt closures, unjust dismissals Over 6,000 workers lost their jobs as several companies suddenly closed on the first half of 2014. On April 30 Hoya Glass Disk Philippines, an electronics company operating in Batangas, reportedly called a general assembly of its workers and announced its immediate closure. The workers were then served with waivers, quitclaims, checks, and other documents. In the company’s attempt to legalize its abrupt closure, it offered each worker his/her last salary and “separation” pay into a single paycheck.
Workers of Carina Apparel protest illegal closure and illegal dismissal.

Workers of Carina Apparel protest illegal closure and illegal dismissal.

Also on February 21, Carina Apparel Inc., a garments factory located in Laguna International Industrial Park in Biñan, Laguna closed down without prior notice leaving at least 3,600 workers out of jobs. A week prior the closure, the company told the workers to go on a one-week leave saying that raw materials have not yet arrived. Days after, the workers’ union learned that the company has informed the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) about its plan to stop operation on March 27. Another 93 workers of Masters Inc., a subcontractor for the developer of Manny Villar’s luxury houses inside Camella Homes, were barred by the company’s security from going inside their workplace on July 4. The reported dismissal came 10 days after the workers lodged complaints of below minimum wage payments, absence of social security benefits among other benefits before the regional DoLE. And just before the year ends, at least 400 workers more are bound to lose their jobs as Mandarin Oriental Manila, managing Ayala’s hotel unit in Makati City, announced last June 6 its plan  to close down by third quarter of the year. Incurring losses or insatiable drive for greater profits? Oftentimes, companies justify closures that result in massive retrenchment by saying they are suffering from financial losses, if not bankruptcy. Government statistics shows that from January to April 2014, 631 establishments reported resorting to permanent closure/retrenchment due to economic reasons that displaced at least 8,599 workers. Majority (388) of these establishments resorted to closure due to organizational reasons such as reorganization/ downsizing/ redundancy or change in management/merger. A total of 116 establishments closed down due to financial losses, 69 due to changes in product demand while only a few companies attributed their closure to lack of raw materials (5), minimum wage rates (1) and others (52).
A group of Hoya workers rally in front of Department of Labor and Employment to protest illegal closure, retrenchment and union busting

A group of Hoya workers rally in front of Department of Labor and Employment to protest illegal closure, retrenchment and union busting

In particular, Hoya Glass Disk cited “slump” in profits as reason for sudden closure, Carina Apparel reportedly “incur[red] heavy trading losses” and “significant losses” as early as December 2011. However, workers reported high profits for both Hoya Glass Disk and Carina Apparel. According to Kalipunan at Saligan ng Manggagawa sa Hoya Glass Disk Philippines – Independent (KASAMA sa HOGP-Ind) the company earned as much as P1.188 billion net profits in 2012 while the local union in Carina Apparel, Carina Apparel Inc. Labor Union-Independent (CAILU) estimates the company’s daily gross income at P81.9 million. Mandarin Oriental Manila for its part is shutting down, not due to incurred losses but because its management deems that the hotel is “no longer in keeping with the group’s well-recognized, luxury hospitality offering.” The shutdown is meant to give way to a new, taller and bigger hotel unit with 275 rooms by 2020 and will form part of mixed-use development hub developed by Ayala Hotels & Resorts. Destroying secure jobs, destroying unions Reasons proclaimed by companies to defend abrupt shutdowns become even more dubious when companies suddenly re-open or hire contractual employees to replace regular employees. Both KASAMA sa HOGP and CAILU believe that although their respective companies have invoked financial losses as reason for their shutdown, the real motive behind it were to break down their unions, replace regular workers with casual workers and consequently amass more profits from the workers’ hard labor. For Ian Ordoño, President of KASAMA sa HOGP-Ind, “there is no other reason” for the massive lay-off in Hoya other than the company’s will to “abolish the newly-formed but strengthening workers.” The same motive of union busting is apparent in the case of Carina Apparel Inc. where workers have worked for 14 years or so. Just a day before the scheduled collective bargaining agreement on February 15, the company told the workers to go on forced leave for a week and on February 24, the company announced its closure. While the 93 workers in Camella Homes are not organized in a union, their organized collective effort to claim their right to receive minimum wages and social benefits is also believed to be reason for the mass dismissal. Regional Association of General Employees Against Contractualization (RAGE-Negros), a workers group based in Negros Island to which the workers of Camella Homes are organized, highly suspects that the termination aims to “disallow the workers” to enjoy basic labor standards. It is not incidental that the union of 400 workers who will lose their jobs as Mandarin Oriental Hotel go on “hiatus” will also result in the dissolution of their union. A 2013 study by the De La Salle University Center for Business and Development Studies on precarious work in hotel industry already underlined lower expenses or costs for salaries and benefits, reduction of regular workers and weakening or prevention of unionization as among the reasons why irregular work is preferred and is prevalent in the hotel industry. Promoting precarious work, perpetuating injustice Government statistics reported a huge leap in job generation early this year with over 1.6 million jobs generated from January to April 2014  (See table). However, a closer look at the statistics reveals that a huge increase in part time jobs (even more than the total number of jobs generated) and a drop in full time work by 673,000. (insert table here) Unjustly terminated workers have filed cases of illegal dismissals and illegal closures and turned to government mechanisms to seek redress. But the response by the government proved to be discouraging to say the least. In the case of Hoya worker, the DOLE intervened promising to investigate further the illegal termination of operations of the glass disks company. But while thousands of Hoya workers strive to be regain their lost jobs, 50 workers of HOGP were reportedly paid inside the regional office of National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) to settle the disputes with the HOGP company thus, creating division and confusion among workers. To RAGE-Negros, it is the Aquino administration’s state policy of exploiting cheap and docile Filipino labor through implementation of labor contractualization that is the root cause of workers’ plight allowing companies to get away with illegal closures, underpayment of wages, absence of benefits, and deny workers of their right to union and to strike.###   References: Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics (BLES) website: http://www.bles.dole.gov.ph/ Pamantik. “2,600 workers lose jobs following Hoya Glass illegal closure” date of publication unknown. Accessed July 15, 2014 http://pamantik2009.wordpress.com/2014/05/09/2600-workers-lose-jobs-following-hoya-glass-disk-illegal-closure/ Inquirer (web). “Factory making CK, Gap to close, lay off 3,600” by Maricar Cinco, published online on Feb 24, 2014. Date accessed, July 15 2014 http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/580133/factory-making-ck-gap-to-close-lay-off-3600 Inquirer (web). “2,600 plant workers lose jobs” by Maricar Cinco published on May 6, 2014. Date accessed, July 15, 2014 http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/599840/2600-plant-workers-lose-jobs Interaksyon (web). "Last call: Mandarin Oriental Manila" by Victor C. Agustin published on June 6, 2014. Date accessed July 15, 2014 http://www.interaksyon.com/article/88526/cocktales--last-call-mandarin-oriental-manila