The human cost - Voices of the crisis



In Puerto Montt, in addition to the difficulties caused by salmon infectious anaemia, detected in 2007, the global economic crisis must now be added. Olga Paredes, employed by Marine Harvest, a fish farm, says: “I was laid off in April 2008 together with 600 other people. During the five months I was unemployed, I used my severance pay to cover expenses because I have two children. Now I can’t work at ease because I have a month-by-month contract.”  Olga adds that there are other effects on families’ daily lives: “Marine Harvest used to pay for the children’s kindergarten until they were two years old, after which one had to pay thirty thousand pesos and the company paid for half of this. But I no longer have this; how am I going to pay for their kindergarten? I have had to stop buying things for the house every month; now I buy for the week, or for the day.”  With regard to how to confront the crisis, Olga says: “One goes to the municipality or the town council to ask for a box of food and you’re told that you have to wait four months for another box of food. Does this mean I have to feed my children every four months if I do not get another income?”  As far as the future is concerned in this crisis scenario, Olga thinks that: “My future is very dark. All I want is a home and a job, and the way things are this frightens me. I have thought of going somewhere else, but with two children this is difficult.”


The crisis has notably affected my work, says Ricardo Tranquili, employee of the Bank Credito Fondiario FONSPA. “As Credito Fondiario is 100 per cent owned by an American bank, Morgan Stanley, this has seriously compromised our present and future work. Perspectives are currently null and our company has been marked for sale by the shareholders. We received an indecent proposal by our management: begin to dismiss yourselves so we will be able to sell you better.”
The salaries of Morgan Stanley managers are only a small part of their annual income. It is based on bonuses and rewards that they got, according to the several projects they pushed forward. The job was project-based and, when a project was successful, the managers’ bonuses were very substantial.

The Government has the duty to start reconsidering the current economic model; we should look at less free trade and more State involvement.  


Valerie Vinakpon Gbaguidi, chef and author.
“In our markets, all the products are expensive without any exception, regardless of if they are imported or local. Before, we used to provide for ourselves here in Cotonou, but we could not make profits so it was necessary to change our habits. Instead of buying chicken in Cotonou, as always, for instance, I now go to the surrounding villages. I go to the source to provide for myself. For my vegetables, I go to the gardeners. I am thankful for the Government’s efforts, for instance lowering taxes on some products. However, I would have liked the politicians to re-examine taxation. Taxes, taxation, it is really hell.”

Maurice Tchibozo, farmer.
“Although I produce, I have nowhere to sell my products and, even if I can find a market, I have to sell them for less than what I have invested in them. This is the point with the crisis. When you do not have much in your pocket, you are forced to get into a lot of debt. You are living with less than what you need. Instead of selling 1,000 francs, you sell 500 francs. You cut down on your budget. When you have to pay, you are in trouble and this makes you panic. The government has mentioned many things, but vegetable production was not taken into account. I have not seen any ministerial team coming and asking for vegetables, or asking us about our needs.”


Mr. Mario M. Cruz, 59 years of age and a resident of Pasig City, has been working as a foreman at the Republic Asahi Glass Corporation (RAGC) – a subsidiary of Japan’s Asahi Glass Corporation – since 1979. He is a former President of the RAGC Labor Union; serving as its chair for more than 20 years.

The Corporation is the only glass factory in the Philippines. Every time the factory loses a group of clients, many workers lose their jobs. According to Mr. Cruz, the crisis for the labourers of RAGC began back in the year 2000, when about 300 employees of the Process Glass Division lost their job when this division closed down, due to tough competition from manufacturers from China. Something similar happened in 2002, when more than 200 employees of the Fabricated Glass Division lost their job.
After the outburst of the global financial crisis, in 2008, many of RAGC’s clients in the Philippines closed down. Because there were no sales, RAGC’s mirroring plant closed down in December 2008. Mr. Cruz and about 300 other workers were on forced leave from December 2008 to January 2009, since there was no production work available.