POSTSCRIPT / March 20, 2011 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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We need the $14-M more than Japan does

NO, THANKS — We should not feel bad or embarrassed with Japan’s politely declining our offer ofassistance, worth around P600 million ($14 million), to help that neighbor recover from the devastation of Nature.

We can be sure the Japanese appreciate the gesture, although the offer was marred, I think, by some of our leaders’ pointing out as if to brag that we were among the first to extend a helping hand.

I have this gut feeling that the Japanese are too embarrassed to accept help from a much poorer country that is itself constantly seeking aid from it for a variety of things.

A Japanese embassy official, who appears to know how the Filipino mind works, has just assured us that despite its predicament, Japan will continue to support its development projects in the country.

The scorecard shows that Tokyo is the country’s biggest source of Official Development Assistance (ODA) with grants and soft loans amounting to more than P900 billion in the last four decades.

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BUY-JAPAN: This reminds me of that scenario in 1993, when Japan’s rice harvest dropped because an unusual cold spell ruined the crops. It had to import rice from Thailand to fill the slack.

The retail price of the imported Thai rice was not padded by, as we know it in Manila, the cost of corruption. So it sold much cheaper than local Japanese rice.

While most Filipinos and other Asians in Japan took to the cheaper Thai rice, Japanese consumers insisted on buying only their native variety even if it was more expensive.

We could not divine what moved the Japanese to patronize only their locally grown rice. Was it pride, nationalism, patriotism, or simply eating habits?

Whatever the motivation, it was remarkable that Japanese stuck loyally to their native product even if it was much more expensive.

This is another point to refer to when we try analyzing what makes Japan tick.

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ANTS TRAMPLED: The line is tired, but it is true, that the ants get trampled when elephants fight. Witness the more than 460 small workers who have to bear the brunt as their recruiter (employer) and the firm it supplies with manpower grapple in a legal bout.

The protagonists are Temps & Staffers Inc., a manpower service provider, and Samsung Electronics Philippines Corp. which used to get its promo-merchandisers from Temps.

Their relationship having soured last year, Temps recently filed a case against Samsung for “illegal recruitment involving economic sabotage.”

Suddenly some 460 promo-disers were out of work after Temps told them that their employment was co-terminus with its Samsung contract. At the same time, Temps forbade them from ever working with Samsung.

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TACKED-ON BAN: The workers said they were advised to just wait for their being called if and when Temps is able to find new firms that could absorb them. But nothing was said as to when that would be.

The workers have complained that even if they wanted to apply with Samsung directly, they were barred because they were made to sign an undertaking when they collected their separation benefits from Temps that they may not work with Samsung.

Being myself a worker, I cannot appreciate Temps’ forbidding them to work again with Samsung as a precondition to their collecting their separation benefits.

The separation pay is due the workers. The money is already theirs, they have earned it, and they were just collecting it. I am not a lawyer, but I think tacking that condition that they may not work with Samsung is arbitrary, oppressive and without legal basis.

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CESSATION FORMS: Temps had provided Samsung with promo-disers since 2005. Until 2007, it had been Samsung’s exclusive provider of that type of worker.

In 2007, however, Samsung began recruiting on its own additional personnel as its expansion demanded. It said it needed more promo-disers when opening new showrooms or expanding existing ones.

Temps terminated its Samsung contract on June 30, 2010, after negotiations for a renewal broke down. To fill the void, Samsung engaged the services of other recruiting agencies.

In affidavits, more than 460 former promo-disers accused Temps, their former employer, of forcing them to “sign cessation of employment forms in exchange for their last salary, their 13th month pay, the return of their cash bond, plus other benefits.”

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COERCED TO SIGN?: The workers said the cessation of employment form stipulated that the terminated personnel may not be employed by Samsung or any manpower agency that would do business with it.

With Temps unable to find jobs for the idle workers and with its “no-work, no-pay” policy, they have had no work and no earnings.

They said the employment prohibition is inhuman and unreasonable, also illegal. Having been experienced in handling Samsung products and services, they said they are in the best position to work for Samsung if the firm wants them.

The workers said they were just forced to sign the cessation forms and warned that they could not collect their benefits if they did not sign. They added that they were also threatened with prosecution if they refused to sign.

Some of them stood their ground, did not sign the forms and decided to fight for their rights. Thirteen promo-disers reportedly filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Commission for non-payment of benefits due them.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 20, 2011)

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