19 companies embrace flexiwork arrangement

Carlo Lorenciana - Johanna O. Bajenting

THE coronavirus outbreak-driven economic crisis is starting to push some industries to adopt a flexible work scheme, believed to be the most practical alternative to cutting jobs.

According to the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole), more than 2,000 workers in Central Visayas have now been immersed in flexible work arrangements.

Of the total, over 1,000 workers come from the manufacturing industry, 222 from spas and around 36 from resorts.

“As of now, our database tells us that there are already 19 establishments employing flexible work arrangements, either reduction of workdays, rotation of workers, and the use of forced leaves,” Dole 7 Director Salome Siaton said.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles on Tuesday, March 10, proposed to business owners to explore the four-day work schedule or a flexible work arrangement for their employees instead of resorting to retrenchment and lay-offs.

“I think any retrenchment as of the moment should be a last option,” Nograles said, as quoted in a national report.

Sought for comment, Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) president Felix Taguiam said the four-day work week is the clamor of the industry.

“Salary must be reduced to four days also because this is a matter of survival for investors. It will be better than no work at all. It is high time that the labor sector and employers worked hand in hand in this crisis,” he said.

The government proposal, according to Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Steven Yu, would depend on the type of industry.

“Some of the companies, especially those related to the tourism sector, are already implementing or are going to implement flexitime and shortened work weeks. However, those in the retail sector cannot implement this yet, especially those who are into the delivery of vital services. It will all depend on how things will evolve in the next few days,” Yu said.

“The flow of essential goods and services should not be disrupted and should be given utmost attention and priority,” he added.

Moreover, the Mactan Economic Zone (MEZ) said they will implement measures to protect their employees and the industries.

Rufino Ranulfo San Juan IV, lawyer and deputy zone administrator of MEZ, told SunStar Cebu they are conducting meetings with the MEZ Safety and Security Council with regard to Covid-19.

“If the four-day work week will help stem the tide of Covid-19, we will implement it. No questions asked. We just have to come up with arrangements to ensure that our frontline services will continue to serve efficiently the requirements of our locators and other stakeholders,” he said.

MEZ employs about 60,000 workers.

Dialogue

Meanwhile, the Dole 7 is stepping up its dialogue with industry tripartite councils (ITC) and the Regional Tripartite Industrial Peace Council (RTIPC) to cushion the labor market from the economic impact of the global epidemic.

Siaton said “tripartism” is necessary to engage the labor, management and government sectors in tackling the business challenges.

“We believe that sound industrial relations and effective social dialogue are some means to promote the interest not just of the workers but also that of the employers. Now that we are confronted with the phenomenon, this kind of collaboration with our partner-establishments is badly needed if we are to protect workers and the businesses,” the labor official said.

On Feb. 14, 2020, the Dole 7 convened representatives from the ITC in the tourism industry, the most affected by the Covid-19.

The agency also met on March 2 with the RTIPC, CCCI and the Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu Inc. It also convened a meeting with the academe.

Siaton noted the ITC dialogues aimed to come up with possible measures that businesses could adapt amid the economic downturn.

The Dole 7 will also meet with the ITC in the construction industry on March 18, bus transport on March 19 and wholesale and retail business on March 31.