WORKERS should not single-handedly bear the brunt of dealing with the worsening economic crisis triggered by the global financial meltdown by short of blackmailing them to accept “voluntarily” flexible work arrangements lest they swiftly become jobless and penniless.
This was underscored by the Alliance of Progressive Labor as the Department of Labor and Employment issued the DOLE Department Advisory No. 2, series of 2009, in time for the government-sponsored Tripartite Action Conference on the Global Financial Crisis last Friday.
Although the advisory states that the flexible work schemes for the private sector – compressed workweek, reduction of workdays, work rotation, forced leave, broken-time schedules and flexi-holidays – should be “voluntary” and with the “consent of both labor and management,” but it emphasizes that such measures are “better alternative” to “outright termination of workers’ services and total closure of their establishment.”
DOLE Secretary Marianito Roque said that such arrangements are needed “as a coping mechanism and remedial measure” to mitigate the impact of the worldwide crisis, and would cut “business costs while saving jobs and maintaining competitiveness and productivity.”
Edwin Bustillos, APL deputy secretary general, retorted that “this one-size-fits-all strategy of the government and employers is skirting again the underlying issues behind this capitalist-driven crisis and merely wanted to get through this mess while making the workers the usual cannon fodders or escape goats.”
Bustillos warned that these measures could open a floodgate of further abuses especially against the unprotected and more vulnerable non-unionized workers, who comprise the overwhelming majority of the labor force.
Flexible work, as one of the urgent responses to the crisis, may temporarily be implemented, Bustillos admitted, but only in enterprises with existing unions and only after thorough consultations with the workers and if the necessary safeguards are already in place.
“Cost-cutting methods or any other program that calls for ‘sacrifices’ to weather the crisis must be two-way, transparent and democratic in concept and practice,” Bustillos said. Thus, he added, “the burden of facing and solving this problem must be carried out not only by the rank and file workers, but also the managerial level staff as well as the top executives and up to the government.”
These flexible work proposals are in conjunction with Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s so-called economic resiliency program, in which the government has earmarked a P330 billion budget coming from various public and private sources, including pledges from the Social Security System and the Government Service Insurance System.
Bustillos reiterated the APL’s position that the government’s economic stimulus package will remain tainted because it is being spearheaded by a notoriously corrupt and inefficient regime; it does not have clear and specific programs; it will unilaterally use the hard earned monetary contributions of the private and public sector workers in the SSS and GSIS, respectively; and it is essentially palliative in nature.
“We are missing a great opportunity to transform our economy. This crisis calls for a more comprehensive response, not piecemeal and dole out measures. What we need is a clear and genuine development plan that will revitalize our domestic economy, create quality jobs without trampling on labor and trade union rights, and provide everyone with better social services,” Bustillos said.