The Grey Chronicles

2008.December.8

Three Days a Month Work, Deja Vu?


On September 26, 1999, Bobby Timonera wrote:

“The beleagured National Steel Corp is set to drastically cut operations to only three days a month starting Oct. 1.

“Cesar Padilla, a board member of the National Steel Labor Union (NASLU), qouted NSC Senior Manager Orlando Maglinao as saying workers would have to go on forced leave and would work only on the number of days specified.

“"There’s no mention as to how long the situation will last," he said.

“The NSC used to be controlled by the government. It is now controlled by Hottick Investments Ltd. of Malaysia.
Ibrahim Bidin, a top management official, is said to be coming to Iligan on Thursday [30 September] to meet with the union and management.

“A management official wondered why the plant had to stop operations so abruptly when there were raw materials that could last up to a month. "November would have been a better schedule to shut down," said the official who requested anonymity.

“According to union sources, average workers at NSC receive about P15,000 a month. If they work only three days a month they will take home only P1,500 in wages plus P3,000 as rice subsidy and transportation allowance.

“Iligan Mayor Franklin Quijano said the government had done its share to liberalize trade, and that it was now up to the investors to make the firm competitive. He also advised the Malaysian investors that if they could not save the plant, then they might as well sell it to interested buyers.

“But the union also blames the national government for the NSC’s financial woes. Padilla said that while other countries were protecting their steel industry with high tariff rates of as much as 20 percent, the Philippines did the opposite. Until lately, tariff for imported steel products was a low 3 percent. It was raised to 7 percent only a few weeks ago.

“Earlier, [Alipio Cirilo V.] Badelles warned that if the NSC folded up, the national government would be the "biggest loser." He said it would forfeit P900 million in customs revenues and P720 millin in energy revenues annually.” (Timonera, 1999)

As if by corporate fate, nine years later, on 04 December 2008, GSPI did the same thing all over again but with a difference, as well as similarities, such as:

  1. There is no Bobby Timonera to report it in the daily news.
  2. There is no powerful NASLU to protect the interest of the rank-and-file. Although the rank-and-file have unionized, the labor union at GSPI has been silent after GSPI Indian management sacked the union president last June 2008.
  3. Orlando Maglinao is now an Iligan City Councillor. Maglinao’s position is now held by another, who seemed to be more favorable to the top management than his fellow citizens.
  4. Yet, again there is no mention as to how long the situation will last. Management answers this with the oft-repeated qoute: if . . .
  5. Furthermore, the owner, Pramod Mittal, is not scheduled to come to Iligan to clear the issues. What with other problems on his plate: Nigeria’s Ajaukota mill in courts, Bulgaria’s Kremikovtzi mill entangled with a Mittal Steel’s takeover.
  6. Unfortunately, there are no raw materials (i.e., owned by GSPI) left in GSPI that could last up to another month. Raw materials at GSPI have been depleted since October 2008.
  7. The average worker STILL receives P15,000 per month at present. Yes, that is after nine years, the lowly paid worker still receives the same amount when GSII then re-hired ex-NSC employees at the pay scale similar to their rates after NSC closed. The difference at present is that the workers are not given any rice subsidy and transportation allowance. Thus, with three-day work, they will only receive about P1,500 a month.
  8. The Malaysian then would not sell NSC to other investors, such as Ispat International NV which would become Mittal Steel in 2000. The same with the present Indians—remember the rumors about Tata Steel or Treasure Steel taking over GSPI, which the latter countered with a US$1.6B Integrated Steel Mill plan by 2010?
  9. Also, the union is again blaming the National Government of GSPI’s financial woes. Aside from the question of foreign management’s competency, tariff was the issue then, as it is now.
  10. There is no Alipio Cirilo V. Badelles to bring the issue to the House of Representatives. And, I don’t know if the present Iligan Mayor, Lawrence L. Cruz is aware of GSPI’s plight at present.

Notes:

Timonera, Bobby (1999). Iligan’s Biggest Employer: Steel firm to cut work to 3 days a month Manila: The Philippine Daily Inquirer 26 September 1999. back to text

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