Labor institute alarmed over firms’ cost-cutting schemes

Apr. 20, 2009

The Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, Inc. (Eiler) has expressed alarm over the recent survey showing companies have resorted to reducing workers’ benefits and working hours to cut costs in the light of the global financial crisis.

Eiler deputy executive director Anna Leah Escresa-Colina said that cutting benefits that workers must enjoy is a breach of legal safeguards to providing fair wage and incentives, not to mention a disregard of their long-fought struggle to get these benefits.

A recent study conducted by Australia-New Zealand, British, Canadian and European Chambers of Commerce in the Philippines showed that 25 percent of local and foreign firms surveyed resorted to measures aimed at reducing incentives to Filipino workers. Twelve percent resorted to reducing benefits while another 13, to reducing bonuses to cut costs. Another 12 percent resorted to implementing flexible workweeks.

The said measures breach certain provisions under the Labor Code that state guidelines on providing such benefits as leaves, overtime and vacation pays, according to Escresa-Colina.

Results of the study were discussed during a recent forum on the flexible workweek. The report added that the forum was conducted to “help local and foreign businesses make wiser decisions about their employees and their businesses in general.”

Eiler believes that these alternative schemes leave workers with no choice but to accept the time and amount of benefits their employers set for them, along with making the economic crisis as an excuse to maximize profits and reduce overhead costs at the expense of cutting their much-deserved benefits.

Escresa-Colina reiterated her concern over the support of Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) for flexible workweeks and other salaries- and benefits-reduction schemes. Local and foreign companies apparently have Dole’s blessings in taking advantage of the Filipino workers.

The Eiler executive director earlier said these measures clearly exposes [the Dole’s and the government’s] impartiality to the owners of capital and not to its makers”, a violation of the state’s responsibility to safeguard the rights and welfare of laborers.

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