National Book Store to lay off 70-80 workers

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THE National Book Store (NBS) is set to shed at least 70 to 80 jobs as it struggles against the onset of online stores, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said. 

Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said on Wednesday that an executive of the bookstore and office-supplies store chain will be meeting Labor Assistant Secretary Benjo M. Benavidez on Thursday to discuss the looming displacement. 

He said NBS sought their advice as it plans to phase out one of its departments.  

“I told him to avoid any legal complication in the future and to first confer with Assistant Secretary Benjo,” Bello said.  

“I am very happy with the attitude of National Book Store of conferring with us first, and we appreciate the gesture,” he added.

Benavidez said he would be meeting on Thursday afternoon with NBS Chief Financial Officer Adrian Ramos. 

“Based from our initial reports, the department they are considering phasing out is their warehouse department,” Benavidez said. 

During the discussion, he said the DOLE would check if the ground of NBS for the retrenchment is valid.

“Their initial cited reason is the declining sales of books. But I still need to verify this and know the specific reason, because the grounds [for retrenchment] are limited. An example would be redundancy,” Benavidez said. 

Benavidez said they are anticipating similar cases of retrenchment as new labor-saving technology and labor schemes such as online stores become more prevalent in the coming years.  

The DOLE earlier said it is anticipating more retrenchment from such trends in the next five years. 

Benavidez said they hope to get a concrete estimate on the possible protection of workers affected by the so-called Fourth Industrial  Revolution (FIRe) once they fully implement Republic Act (RA) 11165 or the telecommuting law. 

He said they might include protective mechanism for affected workers in the implementing rules and regulations of RA 11165. 

“We are now preparing for this phenomenon like online stores and other future trends in employment,” Benavidez said.  

“That is why we are meeting with the sector that is into telecommuting or online business so we could get data,” he added.

Federation of Free Workers Vice President Julius Cainglet said a possible intervention for workers affected by the FIRe is the creation of unemployment insurance.  

“This is what is missing from the pillar of our social protection system,” Cainglet told the BusinessMirror in an interview. 

He noted components of the international standard for unemployment insurance exist from job facilitation and skills training.   There is also proposal from the Social Security System to give a certain amount for displaced workers. 

Cainglet, however, said these services are still not institutionalized and are only available to workers who would “invoke” it. 

“There is also a problem of supply and demand. Since skills training would usually vary depending on the region, its implementation will not be the same for every area unlike it is institutionalized,” Cainglet said.   

He noted these should be integrated so that displaced workers could easily access it. 

“This should be part of the government’s just transition policy [for displaced workers,” Cainglet said.