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This month we have seen the loss of 2,600 jobs in the official flag carrier Philippine Air Lines (PAL), and one Jobs from global computer giant Apple.

October 1 was the start of PAL’s outsourcing program, affecting 2,600 ground crew and ticket sales personnel. It was truly heartbreaking to see employees, some of whom had served the company for 15, even 20 years, given the pink slip just to be hired again as lower paid contractuals under outsourcing companies owned by the very same people who fired them.

In fact, PAL started spinning off its operations at about the same time San Miguel Corp. did in the mid-90s. The first round resulted in a crippling strike which saw the mass laying off of its pilots and stewardess, especially their union leaders. It also forced PAL Employees Union (PALEA) to enter into a government-brokered deal for a 10-year moratorium on their collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in exchange for management’s suspension of its outsourcing plans.

But in the end, PAL’s owners have gotten their way in busting the union and converting their CBA-protected workers into newly-hired, lower-paid contractuals.

Given this reality faced by workers all over the world, did PALs employees really stand a chance? I’m not so sure. For one thing, perhaps the strike took too long in coming that in the end, all they were really able to launch were protest actions. I’ve always believed that one should go on strike immediately after worker-management negotiations reach a deadlock so that its purpose as a pressure point is used to the fullest. The problem with striking at the end of a long-drawn mediation process is that by that time, union morale tends to get low with management taking every opportunity to divide and compromise the workers’ ranks. Also, too many characters and brokers, chief among them the government, would have already entered the picture severely limiting one’s tactics and options – what we call “nakakahon.”

The bottomline for most companies, of course, is profit. My only beef with this is that profit nowadays is measured not by whether a company makes money but whether it makes as much money as the others. For a modern-day capitalists, the measure of success is not in earning a profit per se but in earning as much or more than their fellow capitalists. Unfortunately, the role model is Smart and Globe and they really rake it in. In other words it’s not the profit, but the rate of profit that matters. In PAL’s case, my guess is that it wasn’t really losing money, it’s just that it wasn’t making enough for its owners.

But if there was anyone making more money than most of humanity, it was the late Steve Jobs, co-founder, CEO, ex-CEO and again, CEO of Apple. Jobs fathered the three must-have gadgets for today’s generation – the iPod, iPhone and iPad. Well, if you count the Mac and iTouch that would be five. Then there’s Pixar that produced Toy Story which my son continues to watch at least three times a week.

What we loved about Jobs was not his penchant for making money, although there’s that too, but his sense of style. One writer called him essentially a stylist for what would otherwise be cold, digital tools. Thus under his hands an mp3 player transfigured into an iPod, a mobile phone into an iPhone, a computer tablet into an iPad, and a laptop PC into a Mac. Some have a word for it – magic. He put magic into our hands.

What endeared Jobs to many was his audacity, his boldness of vision that resulted in products that we treasure, even love.

Compare flying Lucio Tan’s PAL and using Steve Job’s iPad and you’ll know what I mean. One is such a hassle and the other is such a joy.

Did Jobs have to fire thousands of people just to make more money? Did he have to violate his workers’ rights? Honestly I wouldn’t know. What I know is with the kind of prices he asked for his products, it would have been criminal for him not to have treated his workers fairly.

Jobs made many of us giddy happy spending double or triple for things we could have bought at cheaper prices. He made money in style. Now there’s a capitalist for you.#

2 thoughts on “The loss of Jobs

  1. Well, to set the record straight, Steven Jobs’ Apple Inc., did in fact, outsource its manufacturing/production to the Foxconn Technology Group which is a multinational business group anchored by the Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., Ltd., a Republic of China-registered corporation headquartered in Tucheng, Taiwan. Foxconn is the world’s largest maker of electronic components including printed circuit boards.

    A large, secretive contract manufacturer popular with European and American companies wishing to outsource manufacturing operations to China, some of the most renowned products Foxconn makes include the iPhone and the iPad. Foxconn has been involved in several controversies–mostly relating to how it manages employees in China, where it is the largest private employer.

    Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd was founded in 1974 as a manufacturer of electrical components (notably electrical connectors for computer components,which found use in the Atari 2600,[9] etc.) by Terry Gou.Foxconn was first a trade name of Hon Hai and is now named a Hon Hai subsidiary.

    Hon Hai’s first manufacturing plant in Mainland China opened in Longhua, Shenzhen in 1988. Now the company’s largest operation, 300,000 to 450,000 workers are employed in Shenzhen at the Longhua Science & Technology Park, a cramped, walled campus sometimes referred to as “Foxconn City”or “iPod City”. Covering about 1.16 square miles (3 square km),it includes 15 factories, worker dormitories, a swimming pool, a fire brigade, and a downtown complete with a grocery store, bank, restaurants, bookstore, and hospital.While some workers live in surrounding towns and villages, others live and work inside the complex, which broadcasts its own television network, Foxconn TV.

    Allegations of employee mistreatment have been made on a number of occasions. News reports highlight the long working hours, discrimination of mainland Chinese workers by their Taiwanese co-workers, and lack of working relationships at the company.

    In 2006 the Daily Mail accused it of abusive employment practices. Although Foxconn was found to be compliant in the majority of areas when Apple audited the maker of its iPods and iPhones, the audit did substantiate a few of the allegations.

    Chen Long, a 23 year old assembly worker, died from overwork. He worked 60 hours a week and was often encouraged by his parents to resign from Foxconn, alarmed with the epidemic of suicides and general misfortune surrounding the company. Chen Long was also required to work increasing increments over a year and once fainted in the street months prior to his death. He joined the company in 2010.

    Sun Danyong, a 25-year-old male, committed suicide in July 2009 after reporting the loss of an iPhone 4 prototype in his possession. In reaction to a spate of worker suicides where fourteen died in 2010,a report by 20 Chinese universities described Foxconn factories as labour camps and detailed widespread worker abuse and illegal overtime. In response to the suicides, Foxconn installed suicide-prevention netting at some facilities,and it promised to offer substantially higher wages at its Shenzhen production bases. Workers were also forced to sign a legally binding document guaranteeing that they would not kill themselves.

  2. Sadly Mr. Casino,

    The plight of PAL pales in comparison to the plight of the workers who build the devices that makes you “giddy happy”. You have PALEA employees wearing (although not all) their North Faces, Coach and Hermes purses on national TV, asking for sympathy to protect their lavish way of life and you have Steve Job’s workers who are committing suicide because of poor working conditions.

    Sad, that you, who’s supposedly a champion of labor and common “tao” took it upon yourself to praise what we in the IT community consider a the paradoxical commercial god of Steve Jobs who have slaves for workers to build stuff that makes people “giddy happy”.

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