The Grey Chronicles

2009.January.11

Ready, Set, Let Go!


For almost a month, I together with some 1,300 others worked no less than three-days this month of December. I recalled that for four years after 2000, I was in-between jobs. I worked for about ten years in a steel company which undergone privatization in 1995 then ordered in 1999 the retrenchment of its 1,500 employees because of burgeoning debt. Although the company then claimed that it was not bankrupt, beginning 1999 its employees began the diaspora across the globe, looking for sustainable jobs. But some of us remained here. I opted to remain here.

At least in November 1999, NSC was an organized chaos . . . the retrenchment of about 1,500 employees was planned months prior to the actual event. Even the official date of retrenchment was given as June 1, 2000; or more than the legally required six months. We were each given some sort of an employee kit: a road map for the exit clearance, as well as a list of receivables, our respective training profile; among other things.

On the plus side, NSC gave most of its employees a good life for some 5 to 20 years. That fact alone cannot just be ignored. Literally, NSC made each of its steelworkers economically richer, technically wiser and personally stronger. Most of its employees enjoyed the fruits of their labor for all those years: earned a respectable living, sent children to the best schools, vacationed in posh and dream places, and invested in their future as well as their children’s.

In all those years, each NSC employee were given something to look into the near and distant future: a raise maybe, a promotion sometimes, or a common dream to achieve. The dream was maybe a simple increased productivity through improvement projects or as grand as an Integrated Steel Mill. The employees were adequately taken cared of, many in Iligan thought pampered at most: free uniforms, free health packages, competitive salaries, sizable bonuses, a yearly family vacation, among other things. In return, these employees served the company with loyalty: proudly wearing its gray shirt jacks, defending when NSC was criticized, as well as promoting its products in their own subtle ways.

There might be a time during the Millennium craze that the pessimists in us thought of letting go of that elusive dream that NSC could come back like a mythical phoenix; yet, the resurrection of the premier steel company in the Philippines reminded that probably what we had experienced then was the best years of NSC, which all other steel companies in the country paled in comparison. The optimists in us, however, hoped that the new company might even be better than what NSC was at its best. The foreign owners even announced grand designs for the new company’s rightful place in the country, bragging an expanded role in ASEAN, and aggressively taking Asia or even the world, for that matter.

Oh, they initially explained that like in any revival, people have to tighten their belts in the first year, brace for a succession of threats in the second year, compete as we have never competed before by the third year, and find innovative ways to exist in this globalized world in the fourth year. Then, in the fifth year [2009] the new company could hopefully come out leaner, stronger, and braver. Then everything—blood, sweat and tears— will be worth all our efforts and sacrifices. We only have to dream and that . . . "money was no object."

Oh, they said that the new company would do this and do that; but concrete plans never came to fruition. Every plan it had had been a touch and go . . . a tinker here, and there it goes; a tweak here, and there it went. A series of plans for expansion never did ceased to amaze its employees, but some found amusement instead. A rehabilitation which was originally planned to last for months, became weeks in implementation. There was also the tendency of starting one thing and never completing them; then restarting the same thing from zero after awhile.

Oh, they claimed to have brought with them the best minds and the best practices from their mother company, yet the former NSC plant was never considered a part of the latter. The best minds it brought from the outside made a mockery of all the things the employees of NSC hold dear in their hearts: love for the company. Many of these best minds suspect any ex-NSC employees comparing the new company’s ways with that of NSC’s. Their counterclaim was always: "NSC closed shop in 1999! Thus, our way is better than NSC’s. Just let it go!" The best practices—TPM, the DMAIC methodology of Six-Sigma, among others—it introduced were all in good faith, most local employees embraced it with open arms: willing to learn and apply what was preached, however, the implementation could have been better.

Huh!?! Once in February 2005, we thought that we might be witnessing a grand revival of NSC, but then these designs became mere illusions, if not a fleeting nightmare as some of us claimed. By 2008, most of us who remained in NSC’s hallowed grounds, thought it was a banner year of another era to close with a bang, but then again it became a deafening and dumfounding whimper!

One cannot just let go these things—what NSC gave and offered its employees back then. We all carry these aspirations inside each one of us! Many might have gone to greener pastures, went out of its folds, but still we do reminisce all the good things that had happened to us at NSC, and compare all our latter experiences—steel-connected or not— to the glorious years of NSC.

Is it really time to let it [NSC] go?


Disclaimer : The posts on this site are my own and doesn’t necessarily represent any organization’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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4 Comments »

  1. Rey,

    We may not have met personally, yet, I perfectly understand how you feel. Being an ex NSC guy myself who have made a small contribution to making NSC the #5 top company of the Philippines circa mid 1980s, I really felt bad to put it mildly over the condition the facilities had deteriorated into. I cannot blame the current maintenance group for the sorry state considering the constraints that they are being put through.

    Certainly there are a lot of reasons why the former NSC plant was not able to reach its expected potential. But some of the main reasons which I have personal knowledge are:
    1. Poor product quality
    2. Poor customer relations
    3. Minimal investment made to improve equipment and process

    The first 2 reasons alone is what is driving its customers away to get their raw materials from other steel suppliers. Like the oft-quoted computer lingo “garbage in, garbage out”, you don’t expect to get primes from crap. Whenever there are customer complaints, instead of resolving the issue in-house, GSPI wants the issue to be resolved at the customers’ facilities and/or process. Whatever happened to the saying “the customer is always right”?

    Do we expect to see positive things from GSPI moving forward? I doubt it very much.

    I salute you and many others for staying behind and putting up with all the hardships that you’ve all gone through. However, it may be time to re-assess whether continuing your stay is worth the sacrifices that you and your family will have to endure.

    Comment by Dannie — 2009.March.8 @ 13:08 | Reply

    • Thanks! I believed we have met sometime before. Your comments are very much true, indeed! I contemplated on that question ‘Letting Go?’ from day one when I joined GSPI. But unfortunately for me, the offers are not comparable in terms of job as well as financial security. I am in an age where opportunities call for a much younger blood for supervisory and a much older vintage for managerial!

      Each day, ex-NSCians here are leaving singularly or by bunch for greener pastures. Do I foresee a time when all former ex-NSCians have all left the building? I don’t believe so for the time being, but eventually this scenario is feasible and will come true in the future when all of us left here have either resigned, retired or what else.

      Having acquired some ample skills to chronicle these events—others call it insanity, stupidity, obsession, or holding-on-to-the-glory-of-the past, or other things, in retrospect though in so doing at least in the future maybe some others will see what really happened here and learn from it.

      Comment by reyadel — 2009.March.10 @ 11:18 | Reply

  2. Rey,
    You wrote from the heart, and articulated well what most of us felt and still feel.

    Comment by emarene — 2009.January.13 @ 11:55 | Reply

    • Thanks, my boss usually say that, too! Even my thesis advisers taught that I wrote my thesis from the heart, not emotional though.

      Comment by reyadel — 2009.January.13 @ 19:25 | Reply


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