Wake Up, Philippines!

A job crisis survival guide

Posted in Employment, Global Financial Crisis, Personal Finance, Tips by Erineus on February 2, 2009

YOU COULD SAY PREPARING for extreme uncertainty now that corporate shutdowns and downsizing are escalating is already a bit late.

In a perfect world, we should have already drawn up clever financial escape hatches and different levels of fallback strategies to survive possible unemployment.

But it’s also human nature to party while Noah-like characters build arks when the sun is shining. Unfortunately, the sun is gone and rain is falling. Just last week, Intel has announced it was closing its more than two-decades-old plant in the Philippines, turning 1,800 employees jobless—and that was just the beginning.[read story]

Panasonic, Mitsumi Phils., Texas Instruments and many others announced they were either totally shutting down plants or downsizing. [Visit our special site on the jobs crisis] Official figures from the Department of Labor and Employment show that 19,000 Filipinos have already been retrenched and 34,000 have suffered from wage cuts as of Jan. 29. Hundreds more are losing their jobs every day, said Labor Secretary Marianito Roque.

Globally, the figures look even more alarming. The International Labor Organization expects the economic crunch to add 50 million people to the ranks of the unemployed this year.[read story]

“The outlook is bleak, even without reading the papers. (Many companies) are affected in various degrees of aggravation. Manufacturing is certainly affected in a large way. I thought that services would be spared but they are not. The curious thing is that some are not really affected that much but nevertheless take steps to cut people because the news is scaring them out of their wits,” says Manuel Quiambao, assistant dean of JRU Law School and a seasoned human resource practitioner.

If there is a time when losing your financial edge is a no-no, this is it. Losing a job doesn’t just mean loss of a regular paycheck. It can also mean losing that health insurance you’ve never really appreciated before. It can mean giving up gas, clothing and representation allowances, not to mention your sense of self-worth and financial peace with your spouse.

“Filipinos are known to only have nine weeks worth of savings. What if you don’t even have nine weeks?” says Alvin Tabañag, personal money management coach and registered financial planner.

Here’s your survival guide for these lean months:

1. Know your rights. Companies have at their disposal many tricks to lower the cost of cutting jobs.

They can call it “retrenchment,” instead of “redundancy” and save 50 percent in separation pay. Instead of getting one month for every year of service, you get only half a month if it’s a retrenchment.

Don’t forget, however, that membership in a union can entitle you to more than that so check with your union officers.

If you are being asked to stop work for no more than six months, the company doesn’t have to pay a single peso in separation pay and all benefits are suspended. Then again, you have a job after six months, although you can never be sure until when the company will keep you after that.

Employees should have at least a month’s notice before they are given the pink slip. “The labor department is given a copy of that notice so that the government and also the employees can initiate an inquiry on whether the company has competent proof that it really needs to lay off workers,” says Quiambao.

Expect most companies to use the raging economic crisis as their reason for cutting jobs, but don’t take their word for it. Under the law, before companies can send workers packing, they need to prove that they have done everything necessary to keep the company alive, like rotating workers in shifts and cutting costs. Companies also need to prove that losses are imminent, substantial and they need to back these up with audited financial statements.

If you find out that you’ve been given the boot due to the tough economic environment but the company hires someone else for a similar position, that’s foul play. “That’s invalid, and you can go after the company,” says Carlo Cariño, senior partner at the Cariño and Mabalot Law Offices.

2. Keep your current job. We all sort of mildly get fed up with our jobs from time to time. It’s called getting burned out. This year is not the time to let that feeling get the most of you. Don’t be a good employee; be exceptional because being indispensable keeps your neck off the chopping block. It’s easy to get lost in the daily to-do list, but the one thing that will keep you in the roster is if you understand what it takes for you to be a moneymaker for the company. That’s always the bottom line. And whatever you do, never badmouth anyone. What if the last person you rat on becomes your boss after a merger, then where would you be?

3. Dust off that resumé and keep your contact list close. Hoping for the best but expecting the worst means you better get that resumé dusted off and updated. If your contact list is in your computer at the office, back it up and keep your own copy. Update it on your own time. Everybody talks about networking, but few people actually spend time doing it.

“Normally, you can get the best job offers through your family, friends, ex-lovers, everybody you know. Online job searches are great resources too,” says Tabañag.

4. Feed that emergency fund like it’s a voracious pet. Start tracking your spending and you’ll find ways to save some pesos even if you think you’re stretched already. Postpone big purchases or vacations and keep your priorities straight. Be very careful with swiping that credit card. Feeling depressed because of all the gloomy news can cause you to use plastic like a drug by buying stuff to feel good about yourself. Don’t do it.

“If you go to the movies twice a week, perhaps do it once a month instead. If you are depressed and want to drink beer, remember that it costs P22 per bottle,” Tabañag adds.

5. Stay covered with health insurance and don’t wobble on insurance payments. These may seem like costs that you can do without in a down economy, but the truth is, you can’t afford to not have a decent healthcare plan and protection from death and disability especially when the monthly paycheck has stopped. This early, find out from your human resource department if the company healthcare plan, which is normally cheaper and has better terms than individual plans, can be continued.

6. If you’re having difficulty meeting loan payments, don’t hide from your creditors. Or your children’s school administrator who might be wondering why your check for tuition fee payments is bouncing. Being forthright with your financial situation can save money, because you just might persuade the bank not to turn over your account to a third-party collector. This is not always true, but there’s no harm in trying.

7. Raise cash. Filipinos are great at earning money on the side, whether it’s selling ready-to-wear clothing, food, or cookware. It’s part of the culture; so if you haven’t considered a sideline before, start thinking about a strategy now. Don’t be shy. People need to buy stuff; why not buy them from you instead of the mall?

“There are many, many ways to start your own business with minimal or no capital at all, especially for services. You can fix computers if you’re good at it, build a website, become a member of a good direct selling company. Those who have sizable goodbye money from their companies should think carefully about going into business instead of spending everything. A franchise, for example, is a good option,” says Tabañag, who is also author of a new personal book, “12 Ways To Build Wealth On Any Income.

8. Clear your head and keep your emotions in check. Jitters can cause you to make mistakes. And whatever happens, remember that people are more important than things and that also means marriages are more important than paychecks. In the United States, divorce rates have gone down as couples find it’s cheaper to stay together.

Tabañag adds that losing a job can sometimes be a blessing in disguise.

“We Filipinos, often our careers are handpicked by our parents. This could be the best time for you to do what you really want to do. When you are forced to get out of your comfort zone and consider other careers, who knows, that’s where you will really excel,” he says.

By Ma. Salve Duplito
First Posted 20:49:00 02/01/2009


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