Labor groups thank Henry Sy Sr as 'biggest job provider'

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Labor groups on Saturday, January 19 thanked SM Group founder Henry Sy Sr for his huge contribution to employment.

In a statement issued following the death of Sy, the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) said that Sy has left a "lasting legacy for workers and their families." (FAST FACTS: Remembering Henry Sy Sr)

"We thank Mr Sy for his contribution in nation-building by helping provide jobs for thousands of workers and their families for many decades,"  said Gerard Seno, ALU-TUCP national executive vice president.

"We also recognize as part of his lasting legacy for workers and their families his last-minute efforts to commit to voluntarily regularize and directly hire thousands of SM employees into SM over a period of time," Seno added.

Nagkaisa Labor Coalition said workers should emulate Sy's "todo kayod (hard work)" mentality.

"Henry Sy is an inspiring story. I've been telling workers and trade unionists to emulate the 'Todo kayod' of Henry Sy, from rags to riches. From a sari-sari store to the biggest mall of Asia and more," said Nagkaisa chairperson Sonny Matula.

Meanwhile, militant labor group Bukluran ng mga Manggagawa ng Pilipino head Leody de Guzman remembered Sy as the "king of contractualization" in the country.

"Nakakalungkot na ang kanyang husay at galing noong sya ay nabubuhay pa ay ginamit lamang para magpayaman nang magpayaman sa pamamagitan ng pang-aapi sa mga manggagawa," De Guzman said.

(It's saddening that his skills when he was alived were used to grow his fortunes by oppressing the workers.)

In May 2018, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello announced that SM Supermalls had passed a regularization program for their workers. By year-end, 11,660 SM workers were given permanent positions.

"His biggest contribution is providing employment to millions of Filipinos. God bless his soul," Bello said in a text message on Saturday.

Sy passed away in his sleep early Saturday morning. He was 94.

Born in China's Fujian province, Sy left his family and followed his father to the Philippines to work in their sari-sari store in Quiapo.

His journey to the top started when he opened his own shoe business in 1958. Fast forward to now, the SM Group has ventured from retail to banking, property, gaming, and mining. (READ: FAST FACTS: SM Investments Corporation)

Sy was ranked by Forbes as the richest Filipino and 52nd richest man in the world with an estimate net worth of $20 billion in 2018. –

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.