CBCP president backs calls for job summit


A top Catholic cleric called yesterday for an employment summit to tackle the reported massive layoff of workers in the economic zones.

Speaking over Catholic Church-run Radio Veritas, Archbishop of Jaro, Iloilo Angel Lagdameo, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president, said unemployment is a “serious problem” that the government must address.

“Well, it (unemployment) is a serious problem… that’s why the government must lead the discussion on how to help those Filipinos who will be losing their jobs (because of the global financial crisis),” he said.

“If the problem can be solved through a summit then they should push through with it…”

Earlier, Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iniguez said the government must initiate the employment summit, especially now that the number of workers being displaced due to the global economic crisis continues to increase.

Iniguez, who heads the CBCP’s committee on public affairs, said although the government is implementing measures like employment facilitations and livelihood assistance to the workers, it is important that a summit between the government and the labor sector be held for the government to hear the workers’ side.

The Church is willing to help resolve the looming unemployment problem, he added.

Some multinational companies in the Philippines have closed down, while others have scaled back their operations in the country.

A labor official earlier predicted that about 250,000 workers nationwide are likely to lose their jobs in the next six months due to the global financial crisis.

The Department of Labor and Employment has reported that 30,000 workers have been displaced since December, and that the figure could reach 35,000 by month’s end.

Government won’t stop layoffs

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque ruled out yesterday the possibility of government imposing a “no retrenchment” policy.

“We are looking at measures to address the ill effects of the economic crisis, but we cannot enforce a no retrenchment policy because we cannot force employers from continuing with their operations if they do not have the capacity to do it,” he said.

Roque said the government has already granted a tax break for minimum wage earners and additional exemptions in their income tax returns for those receiving more than the minimum wage.

The Department of Trade and Industry is also reviewing the possibility of regulating the prices of rice and other essential commodities, he added.

Roque said concerned government agencies are discussing a proposal to suspend the implementation of the planned rationalization program.

“We are discussing if we could delay the rationalization program because of the economic crisis,” he said.

Meanwhile, Roque said commercial firms must adopt flexible working arrangements to cope with the financial crisis.

“Employers and workers should consider adopting such arrangements as a better alternative rather than outright termination of the workers’ services and total closure of their establishment,” he said.

Roque said flexible work schedules allow reduction of business costs while saving jobs and maintaining competitiveness and productivity in industries.

However, the adoption of the “compressed workweek” scheme should be voluntary and must have the consent of both employers and workers, he added.

Roque said the employer must notify the DOLE Regional Office in the workplace before adopting any flexible work arrangements.

DOLE Regional Offices are instructed to visit establishments wishing to adopt flexible work arrangements to validate whether it is in accordance with the DOLE advisory, he added.

Under the CWW scheme, normal workweek is reduced to less than six days but the total number of 48 work hours per week shall remain.

The normal workday is increased to more than eight hours but not to exceed 12 hours, without corresponding overtime premium.

However, implementation of reduced workdays must not exceed six months.

Meanwhile, Roque said he will set up “Help Desks” in the different regions nationwide to facilitate the delivery of assistance and services to displaced workers.

The help desks shall serve as a one-stop center bringing the delivery of DOLE programs and services closer to local and overseas Filipino workers who have been adversely affected by the global crisis, he added.

The Desks shall be comprised of personnel from OWWA, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, Bureau of Local Employment, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

The DOLE Regional Directors shall oversee the operations of the help desks.

On the other hand, Roque called for a united response to the effects of the financial crisis on employment.

Speaking before the participants of the Multi-Sectoral Conference on the Global Financial Crisis, Roque said, a united effort is essential to effectively mitigate the impact of global financial crisis.

“Assistance and intervention for some 33,000 affected workers who have begun to experience shorter working hours, along with the more than 40,000 workers displaced by the global economic crisis are urgent,” he said. – Helen Flores, Mayen Jaymalin(PhilStar)

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