‘Strong’ Peso and Weakening Dollar Hurting Workers

For 21 years, said Ustarez, workers there have bent over their machines to produce tons upon tons of knitted wear for export to the U.S., Canada, Germany and other European countries. Gap was one of their more popular brands. But last Dec. 5, their employers told them “there’s no more work,” and they were asked to just come back on Jan. 7.

They did, only to be told of Laws Textiles’ planned closure and offer of a separation package. Now the union is picketing the gates to protest the closure and what is shaping up to be a case of a runaway shop, the company’s workers told Bulatlat. “Laws will resume operation by reopening nearby Fornax and employing mostly lower-paid, non-unionized contractuals,” said Flores.

Unlike in the cases of small export-oriented companies that were really driven to close by the “strong” peso, these medium to large import-dependent, export-oriented companies can offset their “losses” due to the “strengthening” peso through savings on imports, said Ustarez.

In fact, Laws Textiles, for instance, is not actually losing. Gina Flores, vice president of the workers’ union in Laws Textiles, SALAMAT-NAFLU-KMU, told Bulatlat that “Laws’ 2004-2007 financial report clearly shows it’s earning good profit. Even though profits slipped a bit in 2007, its 2005-2006 profit is big enough to more than make up for the slip,” said Flores. “Besides, it’s still profit, isn’t it? What more do they want?”

More profits, apparently. According to Labog, most cases involving massive retrenchment of workers in the Philippines’s medium to large companies have more to do with jacking up profits than surviving imagined losses.

“Unfortunately, when workers struggle to oppose terminations of this sort, Arroyo’s ‘full force of the law’ bears down hard on us, said Labog. He said that just last week, more than 50 joint forces of the Laguna police and Laguna Industrial Park police swooped down hard on the picketline of Hanjin Garments workers to shoo them away from the premises.

“We’re calling on all workers and freedom-loving Filipinos to help press for the eradication of AJ (assumption of jurisdcition),” said Labog. “Since the Labor Department stumbled on this convenient mode of trampling on the workers’ democratic rights, thousands of workers had been attacked in their picketlines. “

“This shouldn’t be the plight of Filipino workers. “There’s more to real economic development than jobs that offer low wages, few benefits and little security amidst a so-called growth,” said Labog.

Genuine national industrialization

In the papers, analysts are shaken by the impending U.S. recession. They’re spooked with gloomy talks of its likely effects on the Philippine economy.

“Their hearts are in the right place for ordinary Filipinos,” said Bong Labog, “but we’re not surprised (by the U.S. recession or gloomy talks) because as far as the workers are concerned, we’d always been in a state of crisis.”

Labog conceded though that if there’s something spooky in the impending U.S. recession, it’s the possibility that employers will harp on it to intensify their drive for contractualization and low wages.

“After all, it’s always the workers whom the government and employers ask to do and give ‘sacrifices’ so the economy would boom,” said Labog. And indeed, their economy is booming, he said. “Just look at the profit margins of the country’s top corporations.”

Even Laws Textiles had profited so much from the workers’ productivity that they’ve expanded by putting up other factories here and in China, said Gina Flores.

“We need jobs that’ll treat us as humans, jobs whose created profits are not spirited out of the country but are plowed back into real development projects and social services,” said Labog.

He decried the lowly conditions to which Filipino workers have been consigned by the government.

“We’re slave-wage laborers in our own country and abroad,” said Labog. “This cannot go on forever.”

“We hope every thinking Filipino will rally for the P125 ($3.07 at an exchange rate of $1=P40.68) daily wage increase demand, as well as for the end of AJ and contractualization,” Labog said.

But more than that, he said that real industrialization is what the country sorely needs to have. He warned that with the likes of Arroyo in power and her fixed implementation of the International Monetary Fund-World Bank (IMF-WB) agenda of liberalization and deregulation, that only diminish whatever semblance of manufacturing we have as well as adversely affect the country’s agriculture, Filipinos can only brace for the worst.

Or unite to end her regime and the policies of her booming elitist economy. Contributed to (Bulatlat.com)

Share This Post