Tuesday, September 8, 2020

“You cannot squeeze blood from a stone”

Maritess Jocson-Agoncillo
said Maritess Jocson-Agoncillo, executive director of the Confederation of Wearable Exporters of the Philippines (CONWEP) to Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat of Manila Bulletin who wrote a post titled: "Deep job cuts hit garment sector."

It is reported that the labor-intensive garment and apparel manufacturing industry is cutting jobs across all companies following a 50 percent decline in exports in the global market, particularly the US.

Maritess Jocson-Agoncillo, executive director of the Confederation of Wearable Exporters of the Philippines (CONWEP), said at least 21,518 garment and apparel workers are going to lose jobs starting last June up to end this year. Some small companies that were not CONWEP members had started laying off since April this year.

“You cannot squeeze blood from a stone,” said Agoncillo. Already, 20 percent of its CONWEP’s 112,000 workers would be furloughed or retrenched. The entire garment industry employs 260,000 to 280,000 workers of which 112,000 are from CONWEP with most members coming from Regions 3, 4 and 7. The number of workers affected was based on its May survey, another survey is going to be conducted in October to assess the situation.

It is alleged that most of CONWEP members are big companies and are footloose, meaning they have operations all over. Because of the pandemic and the long lockdowns, some of them may just have shifted their production to other countries like Vietnam and Cambodia with less stringent lockdown and quarantine restrictions.

Agoncillo, however, denied that some CONWEP members are closing operations permanently but admitted that retrenchments are happening across member firms.

“Some companies have gone into repurpose and were able to save some  jobs, but there are some CONWEP members like those in shoes and bags that cannot just repurpose to manufacture face masks and personal protective equipment because not anyone can spend $3 million to $4 million to get into a clean room set up for a repurpose firm,” she explained.

Agoncillo also denied reports that retrenched workers were not given advanced notice. "The garment manufacturing sector is one of the most unionized industries in the country," she said.

Agoncillo, who likened the industry situation in 2006 or the year after the abolition of the garment quota, said, “We live by the day.”

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