Saturday, 28 March 2009

Philippine electronics workers to get 6-month pay package

By Joyce Pangco Pañares
Manila Standard
http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/?page=news1_mar27_2009

SAN JUAN, Batangas—The government will spend P100 million to shoulder half the minimum wage of thousands of workers who would otherwise be laid off by the electronics industry as a stopgap measure to prevent further job losses, President Arroyo said yesterday.

Under an agreement worked out with the electronics companies, the government will also pay for the workers’ food and transportation allowances while they undergo training at the Technical Educational and Skills Development Authority.

The electronics companies in turn will keep the workers on their payroll and shoulder half their salaries, and in the expectation of putting them back to work when world demand for their products picks up again.

“Many electronic companies have requested for subsidies for their workers” Mrs. Arroyo said.

They know that the electronics sector will soon pick up and come back. They don’t want to lose their workers and they’d like to keep them on their payroll if they can even if they’re not really working.

“So the idea is to pay them half of the minimum wage while they are training. Tesda will help them with the scholarship for the training so that when the market comes back they are now more skilled,” the President added.

“The government must provide incentives to help the private sector keep and create jobs.”

Without saying how many workers were involved, Mrs. Arroyo said the government could sustain the program for about six months to prevent further job losses in the face of a global recession.

Tesda had released P10 million as start-up fund for the program, which would be implemented in cooperation with the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines Inc., Labor Secretary Marianito Roque said.

Roque said the government, through Tesda, would give the affected workers P100 a day for food and transportation.

SEIPI president Ernesto Santiago said even employed workers who had off hours could benefit from free training, but would receive a smaller daily allowance of P60.

Workers who would otherwise be laid off would receive roughly P200 from their employers during their training with Tesda, or about half of the P386 daily minimum wage.

“Any help for the industry is favorable, particularly the training. With this, our laid-off workers and those currently employed can receive training as we prepare for the economic upturn,” Santiago said.

He said the training would cost about P10 million per cycle for a total of 10 cycles.

Mrs. Arroyo said the program would prevent more workers from getting laid off and prepare the industry for the expected revival during the second half of the year.

Roque said Tesda could finance the training of all electronics workers, and especially now that the agency’s budget had been doubled to P2 billion.

“Last year, when Tesda’s budget was only P1 billion, they were able to train 170,000 workers. Now that their budget has been doubled, we can expect them to be able to absorb some 340,000 workers for training,” Roque said.

Philippine exports, dominated by electronics, slumped by 41 percent in January from the same period in 2008, its steepest fall since the global economic crisis hit demand for locally made products.

Dennis Arroyo, policy planning director of the National Economic and Development Authority, said the semiconductor and electronics industry expected business to recover by the third or fourth quarter of the year.

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