There’s a lot of things we need to reflect on while we are in Expanded Community Lockdown.
As I am at home, sipping my coffee and catching up on work, I realized that not everyone is as calm as me.
Many businessmen are anxious, shouting “bankruptcy” even if it’s just the 12th day of temporary non-operations, and formulating ways to shed off manpower and trying their best not to pay the correct severance. In one of the Startup Facebook groups that I was part in, I read the calls of small- to medium-sized businssmen asking for tax/loan/rental concessions, which I completely understand and agree with.
However, this is what I am aghast about — When businessmen who knew exactly the risk they were taking when they opened their businesses and then try to agaw and demand from the government that they should be helped first instead of the workers. Apparently, they do not have an emergency cash fund ready in calamitous events like these. Who knew?
In summary, this was what Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III told reporters last March 26:
“As I said our priority now is support the people who have lost their daily livelihood. Number two, protect the people who are the frontliners and expand our capacity to deal with this on a physical basis and to provide liquidity to the economy. I have told the people who had come out with that proposal to do a stimulus package. That is not our priority at the moment,” Dominguez said in an interview via Google Meet.
Instead of supporting the Philippine government’s initiative and agreeing that workers and people first, this is the type of response I get from fellow businessmen:
Apparently, my fellow small businessmen are demanding that they be saved FIRST and accuse the the government of failing to save the workers. This is from the same people who hide behind the labor policy of no-work-no-pay during the lockdown. This means, that for many businesses who are closed down, legally if your people do not work, they don’t need to get paid.
So what do many of the businessmen do?
Not give a single cent. Zilch. Nada.
Yes, they have to pay for their loans (because of the contract they signed when they took out the loan), and maybe the rent (though many have deferred payment until after the lockdown is last), but many companies have allowed their people to suffer, earning literally zero over the entire lock down period.
I’m part of the HR group and many employees are claiming that while they understand that their companies has temporarily stopped operations due to the lockdown, there is no support AT ALL from their employers at the time of need:
“But wala akong pera!” the selfish businessman says. “How can I get income if I have no operations?”
Look, we knew opening our own businesses requires risk. Nobody put a gun to our head to force us to do business.
If we wanted a comfortable precise income, we would have worked for Ayala and other big companies who are still paying their people despite the lockdown.
But we chose to do this.
Nobody put a gun to our heads to our business, but we decided to do the noble thing, open up a businsess and employ fellow Filipinos.
We take out loans to expand without proper planning on how to pay. We rent out expensive properties when a smaller one can do. We hire expensive people without worrying about cash flow. And we spend millions on marketing because hey, it works. We live maluho lives and buy expensive bags, watches, cars, clothes and shoes. We preen and show off so others think we are rich.
And yet, when our excesses come back home to collect, we say that “Wala akong pera!” because despite the months and years of operations, we ourselves never took a percentage of our income as part of our emergency fund.
And now, we claim we do not have enough money to pay our people — Not even to pay the pro-rated 13th month pay, or offer a salary loan if not free financial assistance.
Many businessmen have a ref stock full of food. They have cars to go to work. They have air-conditioned rooms when they sleep. Their bank accounts have money but they refuse to open up their own purses to help THEIR people, and instead, demand the government to step up and feed them, their people and their vendors.
This makes me angry.
This post has been circulating over Facebook the last few days. I’ve seen my fellow businessmen friends circulate it, garnering positive support, being shared over and over:
I have written my piece asking businessmen to stop washing their hands of their responsibilities to their people, and to help THEIR people first.
Consequently, they have called me privileged, insensitive and a Duterte supporter. That I do not understand the plight of the businesses, and hence come from a place of comfortable living. That’s why I’m not afraid for my business to go bankrupt.
To which I replied, “While it’s true I may be insensitive at times, what’s more insensitive than closing your ears against your employees’ calls for help, and letting them starve?”
Anyone who knows me understand that I am super pro-management and I have no problems shutting people up when they talk badly about their employers. That’s part and parcel of being a manager and an HR.
However, the selfishness of my fellow businessmen embarrasses me.
I’m ashamed that many businesses say that they care for their people, but many offer zero assistance during the lockdown.
I’m ashamed that many businessesmen demand for relief goods for themselves, their people and their vendors’ families but refuses to even apply for the Department of Labor and Employment’s Financial Program where DOLE provides a one-time non-conditional grant of Php 5,000 to each worker for companies who apply and are qualified.
I am ashamed that many businessmen refuse to stop blaming the government for not doing anything for the workers. That they have to suffer during the lockdown. Bakit, kayo? May ginagawa ba? Ginusto ba ng gobyerno ‘to?
I’m ashamed that many businesses take advantage of the higher demand for medical equipment and mark up the supplies highly just because that’s the price people are willing to pay for, even if it’s for donation.
And I’m ashamed that the many businessmen that demand the government to help them first instead of the workers just because they allegedly consist of 99.6% of registered business in the Philippines. As if their business are more important than workers’ basic needs.
People are hungry and they have no money for food, you insensitive prick!
Stop this hypocrisy.
You can’t say you care and have compassion for your workers, but abandon them on the time of need. And once the lockdown is lifted, ask them to go and report back to work as if nothing happened.
You can’t say you are good and helping people in the frontliners if you fail your own people. I am all for those who are actively mobilizing and helping out, kudos to them. But please make sure that your own backyard is taken care of. If you keep feeding the frontliners but leave your own workers hungry, what sort of person are you?
You can’t say you’re helping the cause if you are selling your products above market price especially if it’s for donations. Now is not the time to make a lot of money. There will be time for that later.
Bato bato sa langit, ang mataan ay huwag magalit
Translation: Do not get mad when this message hits you hard.
Anyway, this is not a popularity contest. Someone has to say it though. I cannot keep quiet and allow people to come off smelling like roses when they’re worse than garbage.
Now, not all businessmen are selfish, insensitive, privileged pricks — Many companies are offering people with full pay, discounted pay or financial assistance during the time of the lockdown, making sure that their people have enough food and support during the lockdown. You don’t need to pay them a lot. But a little help will go a long way.
Many people have donated incessantly, cooking food, sewing PPEs, making face masks and others. They are our heroes next to our frontliners. They do this not only to make money but to give their workers a job during the lockdown. Kudos to you guys! We need more people like you.
And many companies are taking a break, re-energizing themselves, prepping their people up for the time the lockdown is lifted. Sure, it will be a lesser income environment post lockdown, but a bit of maneuvering and strategy ensure that they can still retain the team that they build up.
In summary, let the government help the country and the citizens. But we as businessmen, can we please help our own employees in any way we can?
Huwag na natin i-asa sa gobyerno. Tayo na lang ang gumawa at tumulong.
Let’s Help Our People. Do Our Part.
To many of the businessmen, I implore you, please help your employees if you are not doing so yet.
If you can, just release the pro-rated 13th month pay.
If you want to add, offer a salary loan option per payday.
And if your heart is generous, please offer some free financial assistance so they can eat.
You do not need to pay them full wages during the lockdown. They can pay you back after the lockdown. All you have to do is show compassion — not excessive compassion that spoils your people — but enough so they can rest during the lockdown knowing that their bosses will care and support them. And they made the right choice in coming into your company. As they say: