The Grey Chronicles

2008.November.28

The 5-Day Work-Week, A Prelude to Something Lesser


On 29 October this year, GSPI issued an Advisory that it will start its 5-day work-week on 03 November 2008 from the original Monday to Sunday work-week. Sunday became the official rest day and Saturday shall be NO SCHEDULED WORK (NSW) day for all employees. Compensatory time-off with pay was offered to offset overtime and duty on NSW day. The time-off could also include the equivalent premium hours. The 5-day work-week was to take effect until further advice.

The move was necessary to keep all employees on the payroll without necessarily resorting to manpower reduction. This was apparently brought by the recession in the US which also affected the steel market, as news reports state.

I remember clearly that this same thing happened on the last months during NSC prior to its closure, except for the provision on the compensatory time-off. Back then, NSC chose Sunday as the official No Scheduled Work day. There was no strict schedule on the official rest day for employees, but rather we had the option to render 6 days in a week.

At present, we already gone through about five (5) No Scheduled Work days, and the personnel truly felt something different. Mixed feelings of elation and apprehension became noticeable among the personnel. Elation was shown by personnel who did not have any paid vacation or sick leaves. With paid compensatory time-off, eventhough there is no monetary value, these particular personnel were happy with being able to enjoy a free day now having consumed all their paid leaves months before. Some felt aprehension on what lies ahead, having undergone the same precarious times under the privatized NSC era.

One might ask: What’s the difference then and now?

Back then in 1999, NSC barely escaped the onslaught of the Asian Financial Crises of 1997-98. At least NSC management then bouyed the company about a year prior to drastic measures. Now, the economic recession in the US is turning into a global economic crises. Global Finance (October, 2008) reported that the present economic crises began about eight months ago in March 2008 whereby in the "first eight months of 2008, 55 entities defaulted globally, compared with just 22 in all of 2007 and 30 in 2006." Furthermore, a panel of banking heads and economists at the annual SWIFT Sibos conference in Vienna said worse could yet to come in terms of widespread recession in the non-financial sector (Hawser, 2008).

In the privatized NSC, there were about 1,794 locals and 8 expats. At GSPI according to a end-of-2007 head count, there is an estimated 1,026 locals with 33 expats. Thus the expat-to-local ratio balloned from 1:225 to 1:31!

In the privatized NSC, only the rank-and-file personnel received daily wage while the rest were monthly compensated. At GSPI, everyone is considered monthly-paid. The burden of monthly-paid employees is that most are paid during legal holidays even if some opted to go on rest day or leave without pay prior to the holidays.

In the privatized NSC, only supervisory personnel–being monthly paid– were allowed compensatory time-off for work rendered on overtime. There was even talk then that doing so was illegal in the eyes of the labor department rules. It was a risk taken by the management then instead of paying overtime to its salaried employees.

In the privatized NSC, the 6-day work-week failed to curve the rising corporate debt, that it eventually declared a ‘cessation of operations’ on 07 November 1999. Prior to the cessation of operations, NSC employees then undergone a two or three-days duty per month rotation from November to December. All available leave balances on December were company-scheduled until their exhaustion on 20 June 2000, the official date when all employees were retrenched. A number opted for an early retirement. In contrast, GSPI is planning on a retrenchment, mere months after the US recession was felt in Asia.

Am hearing people crying out: "Houston, we have a problem!"


Notes:

Neville, Laurence (2008). Private Equity Investments Linked to Corporate Defaults. USA: Global Finance. Vol. 22. No. 9, October 2008. p. 8. back to text

Hawser, Anita (2008). Global Leaders Paint Bleak Picture. USA: Global Finance. Vol. 22. No. 9, October 2008. p. 10. back to text

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