COVID-19

Over 4,000 workers in Mactan export hub lose jobs

John Sitchon
Over 4,000 workers in Mactan export hub lose jobs

THREATENED JOBS. The Sports City group of companies, the biggest employer at Mactan Export Processing Zone (MEPZ), has just laid off more than 4,000 workers.

MEPZ Workers Alliance

The retrenchment by the Mactan Export Processing Zone's largest group of companies of a quarter of its workers is 'a portent of worse things to come' says Partido Manggagawa

CEBU, Philippines – Five major garment companies at the Mactan Economic Processing Zone (MEPZ) in Lapu-Lapu City announced the lay-off of more than 4,000 workers in a joint statement on Thursday, September 29.

Mactan Apparels, Metro Wear, Globalwear Manufacturing, Feeder Apparel Corporation, and Vertex One Apparel Philippines, all belonging to the Sports City group of companies, said the firing involved a quarter of their workforce.

“As the world is now on the brink of the global recession with higher-than-expected inflation and the global financial conditions are becoming tighter, our business and that of our customers are not an exemption,” their statement read.

The groups cited the effects of Typhoon Odette’s aftermath, supply chain issues, increasing gas prices, and the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

“We are left with no choice but to implement the retrenchment program to keep our business afloat and continue the employment of at least 75% of our workforce,” they said.

Prior to the retrenchment program, the companies had a total of 18,000 workers. The companies promised that the affected workers would receive their legal separation pay.

This is the second round of mass layoffs by the same group of companies.

In September 2020, they laid off 4,420 workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic-induced economic downturn.

But by December of that year, the SportsCity group of companies initiated an active rehiring program as pandemic restrictions easened for businesses.

Omen

“For the biggest MEPZ employer to retrench 1/4 of its workers may be a portent of worse things to come. What is the response of the government? Don’t tell us ‘unity’,” Dennis Derige of Partido Manggagawa (PM) Cebu said in a statement sent to Rappler on Friday, September 30.

Labor groups PM and Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) said that they would investigate Sports City’s claim of a “sudden drop and reduction of orders from clients”.

“We cannot take these claims at face value. In fact, factories traditionally increase their production in the ‘ber’ months (from September to December) to meet the huge spike in demand during the holiday season. We will seek help from our allies abroad to check the veracity of these claims of diminished orders,” Derige added.

According to PM, workers tried to organize unions at Mactan Apparels, Metro Wear, and Globalwear Manufacturing in 2021 but were defeated in the certification election.

“PM had slammed the companies for delaying the elections for almost half a year even as an anti-union campaign was conducted using social media,” their statement read.

PESO assistance

Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard “Ahong” Chan advised the affected workers to go to the Public Employment Service Office (PESO) for assistance.

“Atong gimanduan ang atong PESO Head nga si Mr. Kim Francisco nga hatagan sila og prayoridad kung ugaling adunay available nga trabaho nga gihalad sa lain-laing mga kompanya,” Chan said on his Facebook page.

(We’ve ordered our PESO head, Mr. Kim Francisco, to prioritize the workers if there are any available jobs being offered by different companies)

Since September 26, Francisco said, PESO has been catering to dozens of displaced workers. It has also been coordinating with the top management of the garment companies at MEPZ to mitigate the impact of the retrenchment program, he added.

The Lapu-Lapu City government is set to hold a city job fair in November. Last September 16, the city job fair attracted 4,500 participants. – Rappler.com

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