Flexible work plans seen to save jobs

By Marilou Guieb, Business Mirror

Posted at Feb 20 2009 01:52 AM | Updated as of Feb 20 2009 09:52 AM

BAGUIO CITY—Amid the prospects of retrenchments and factory closures, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has come up with flexible work arrangements to preserve workers’ jobs.

Such a measure is contained in Department Advisory 2, which defines flexible work arrangements as alternative arrangements of schedules, departing from the traditional or standard work hours, workdays and workweek.

Such arrangements may reduce the income of workers but it is seen as a better alternative than outright termination of employees or total closure of the establishment, the advisory said.

“It is a coping mechanism to retain employees while cutting cost of operation during the crisis,” said Ana Dione, regional director of DOLE in the Cordillera region, of the scheme.

Amid the crisis, the workers’ demand for higher wages is taking the back seat as employee and employer work together to ensure that the company to stays afloat.

Flexible work arrangements come at a time when the reality of job loss stares at the worker’s face. In fact, the region has already recorded a job loss of 550 from October last year to February 13.

Texas Instruments (TI) accounts for the bulk of this figure when it retrenched 411 of its employees after its biggest client, Nokia, withdrew its orders for 2009.

Flexible work arrangements are voluntary in nature and the terms are agreed upon and are mutually acceptable to both the employer and employees.

Should there be differences of interpretation of the work arrangements, these are regarded as grievances to be resolved under the company grievance mechanism, or referred to the labor department’s regional office for conciliation.

The flexible work arrangements, according to the department advisory, could come in the form of compressed workweek, reducing days to less than six days but not exceeding 48 hours a week, or not more than 12 hours a day.

Reduction of workdays refers to less workdays per week but not to exceed six months and rotation of workers means they are given work alternately during the week.

There is also forced leave using leave credits, broken time schedule where work hours remain but not continuously, and flexi-holidays where employees avail themselves of holidays at some other time with no reduction of benefits.

“The company has to inform us of its flexibility plans for evaluation,” Dione said, adding flexibility schemes should be temporary in nature and must be reevaluated by the DOLE after six months.

Necessity of resorting to the flexible work arrangements is validated by records of production demands of the companies involved.

Ampang Industries, located at the Baguio Economic Zone Authority, is one of four business establishments that have availed of flexible work schedules in the city.

Ampang has 102 workers that were grouped into two batches, who will have to alternate on a two-month long leave each, but will be receiving a whole month’s salary paid on the 15th of each month.

Ampang manufactures plastic casings of semiconductor chips or electronic-chips containers and its biggest client was TI. With the slowdown of TI operations, Ampang’s production demand dipped by 60 percent.

Another Peza company based here, MOOG, is studying its scheme to be implemented by the end of the month. MOOG manufactures aerospace valves for Boeing aircraft.

Dione said MOOG is considering to spread work leaves to coincide with the holiday economics or long holiday weekends when it will be shutting down plant operations on such days to cut operation costs.

MOOG, said Dione, unlike other companies will not move out of Baguio but will hold expansion until business gets better.

Philippine Treasures, a family-based enterprise exporting novelty items, has resorted to work rotation and reduced workdays. B.T.S. Staff or Less Phils., Inc, a business-process outsourcing company with 36 workers is due for closure on March 10, and has eased the impact of termination by employing work rotation for 20 workers.

On another area, while no Korean school here has closed yet, most are experiencing difficulty as enrollees are continuously dropping out, with Korean economy experiencing inflation. Baguio Education Communication Institute, a Korean-run English learning school, now has only an average of 60 students, a dramatic drop from 200 students a month. The school has given its 80 Filipino teachers equal work hour loads to cushion the effect of job loss on any one of them.

A panel of representatives from government agencies presented programs to help those who have lost their jobs during the regular weekly Kapihan here. Technical Education and Skills Development Authority continues to give trainings, and of the 70 Baguio-based employees who were retrenched by TI, 36 responded to seminars and four were employed as call-center agents.

Other government agencies are pitching in to reduce the impact of job loss. Pag-IBIG, aside from its P82-billion contribution to the economic stimulus package, announced that those with existing loans can request for payments to be deducted from total savings. Also penalty, not interest, is condoned for short-term loans.

PhilHealth has the sponsored program where national government pays for 50 percent of an annual enrollment with a 50-percent counterpart from local government for beneficiaries. Overseas Workers Welfare Authority has started giving two-week long seminars for computer literacy.

“What is important is that we all remain productive, learn new skills, even in these challenging times,” Dione said.