160,000 employees in Central Visayas affected by Covid-19 crisis

IN THE month of May alone, almost 160,000 employees in Central Visayas were affected by flexible work arrangements, temporary closure, retrenchment or reduction of workforce and permanent closure in 5,638 establishments.

This is the highest monthly number of employees affected by the Covid-19 crisis to be recorded by the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) 7.

In May, two establishments permanently closed, affecting 40 employees, while 69 establishments undertook retrenchment, affecting 930 employees.

In May, 5,567 establishments and 158,120 employees were affected by flexible work arrangements and temporary closure.

In April, 50,000 employees lost their jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

One establishment permanently closed that same month, leaving 16 employees affected.

On the other hand, 12 establishments and 232 employees were affected by retrenchment or reduction of workforce.

In April, 2,429 establishments and 50,434 employees in the region were affected by flexible work arrangements and temporary closure.

In March, there was a lower number of affected employees as quarantine classifications in various areas in the region were just about to be implemented.

Three establishments permanently closed with 27 affected employees. Thirty-two firms undertook reduction of workforce, with 224 employees retrenched.

For flexible work arrangement and temporary closure, 1,132 establishments and 39,450 employees were affected in March.

From March to May, a total of 9,247 establishments and 249,473 employees were affected.

The Dole 7 did not disclose how many were affected per province, but majority of these are in Cebu.

Visayan Electric job cuts

Meanwhile, the Visayan Electric Company Employees Union (VECEU), an affiliate of the National Federation of Labor Unions-Kilusang Mayo Uno (NAFLU-KMU), said it is now preparing for widespread protest actions against the management of Visayan Electric.

This, after 16 of their union officers and members were terminated from employment through its redundancy program.

The union officers terminated were Luigi Pusod (secretary), Roberto Pejana (treasurer), Glenn Amor (auditor), Teofanio Nunez Jr. (director), Edwin Borres (director), Alvin Pajo (director) and Kevin Enriquez (director). With the retirement of the union president, only the vice president and a director remained in the union leadership.

They were served notices of termination effective July 31, 2020.

The union said the redundancy program implemented on June 22 shocked them as they were allegedly never notified by the management that it was implementing such.

They said Visayan Electric president and chief operating officer Raul Lucero reportedly disclosed in an online video briefing to Visayan Electric personnel, that the company was experiencing economic difficulties due to the pandemic and it needed to rightsize or streamline its business by reducing manpower through merging or consolidating of several departments.

This was confirmed by a follow-up statement issued by Visayan Electric, saying it, with its parent company AboitizPower, has assessed its current and future modes of operations and business conditions, leading to the necessity of doing an organizational restructuring.

“This will allow for resiliency and enable us to remain efficient, competitive and sustainable as we move forward toward a post-pandemic economy,” it said.

Lucero assured that the company will give its “utmost support” to the affected team members through a substantial separation package and additional accommodations beyond what is legally required.

However, Lito Ustarez of NAFLU-KMU said what happened seems like the management had taken advantage of the pandemic to virtually bust the union.

He said the timing of the retrenchment program was highly suspect as it was implemented at the time when the union could not physically protest the program because of the strict prohibition of mass gathering due to the enhanced community quarantine effected in Cebu City.

Pejana, one of the terminated union officers, also said the redundancy program is “invalid” because aside from being grossly arbitrary due to absence of proper consultation with the union, the company was also hiring the services of several hundreds of contractual workers from at least 20 labor-only contractors who are performing the same work and function as regular Visayan Electric employees.

He said the reasons advanced by Lucero in justifying the redundancy program were unacceptable because the company was far from being affected by the pandemic. He alleged that the company still monopolized the distribution of electricity within its franchise area.

The union said it would file another Notice of Strike against the Visayan Electric in due time. (HBL, WBS, CBQ)