CALAUAN, Laguna – Anna Roselle Ariano went home from Taiwan in December last year not to spend her Christmas vacation but to look for a job.
In her first stint as an OFW (overseas Filipino worker), Ariano, 25, worked as a technical assistant in Advanced Chip Engineering Technologies Inc. (Aceti), a producer of wafer chips, in Hsinchu, Taiwan, in March 2007.
She had thought that she would be earning three times the local wage rates, but things did not happen as she had hoped. She was laid off in November; still she remained optimistic that she could find another job abroad.
Ariano’s pay slip reflected a salary of NT23,000 (P34,000) but half of that went to medical insurance, tax, agency and broker’s fee.
“We found our pay slip strange. Too many items were enumerated. Our initial pay slips were written in English so we easily understood the particulars, but they suddenly changed it to Mandarin,” she related.
She said she and the other employees tried to complain to their employment agency, but nothing came out of it.
Despite the relatively low salary, she persisted in working in Aceti as she just wanted to help her parents send her three siblings to school.
“My mother is earning through our retail store, while my father is unemployed. I want to give them a better life, just like ordinary children who want to repay their parents. Only my twin sister and I were working so I hoped to stay longer in Taiwan,” Ariano said.
Other companies in Taiwan are offering up to NT40,000 (P50,000), she said.
During the last quarter of 2008, Aceti started imposing austerity measures. It reduced electricity costs even at the expense of production. “We could not even use a cleaning tissue needed in the production,” Ariano said.
Workers were forced to file leaves to lower production costs. “The company eventually resorted to forcing us to file several leaves from work. Since there was a no-work-no-pay policy, we had very little salaries in our last few months,” Ariano related.
She said there was a time when the workers had to file two-week leaves since the company declared no work during the period. Only a few Taiwanese were allowed to work.
“It was hard since we had to pay our dorm and other expenses. Tax, agency fees and other items were still deducted from our pay. What we had was literally too little for us to stay there,” she said.
On Dec. 2, Ariano and her co-workers were called to a meeting by their employment agency. “We were asked about our plans. It was either we stayed or not,” she said.
Having no assurance of work and with her savings running out, Ariano decided to go back to the Philippines. Thirty-seven OFWs decided to fly home to seek other opportunities – locally or abroad.
“Our agency told us that most companies in Taiwan were laying off, so we decided to look for some other opportunities somewhere,” Ariano said.
Migrante International, a nongovernment organization supporting Filipino migrant workers, reported that as of November 2008, 720 workers were laid off in Taiwan alone and the figure continued to escalate as more companies either shut down or laid off employees.
Ariano had not yet fully paid her placement fee when she flew to Taiwan in 2007. She was only able to pay half of the P85,000 placement fee.
She admitted that she was not able to invest on a single property from her earnings in Taiwan. She said her salary would go to the basic needs of her family.
“I am looking for an employment opportunity abroad that could give me a good pay. Despite the financial crisis, I have to continue looking for work,” she said. “After all, it’s for my family.”