Since June 2008, Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Phils., Inc. manufactured and delivered twenty four vessels, 14 of which is worth $850 million. For the last two years, Hanjin remains the top exporter in Subic Freeport Zone by earning a total amount of $ 372.74 Million freight on board (FOB) .
With an initial investment of $721 Million, the South Korean conglomerate started operating in May 2006. It was the largest foreign direct investment (FDI) in the Philippines that inked a 50-year lease agreement with then President Arroyo. Hanjin started out with a 15,000 workforce it now employs 21, 000 Filipino workers. Now, the company targets to sell about $700 Million worth of vessels by 2010, $935 Million in 2011, and $1.28 Billion in 2012.
Taking into account the generous benefits bundled with the deal like the ten year tax holiday in less than four years the company will be earning back its $ 1.8 Billion investment in no time. It is for this reason that Hanjin quality assurance director Yoonha Kim commended the Filipino workers for ‘learning fast in shipbuilding’. What then is the state of its 21,000 diligent Filipino shipbuilders?
Recurring Accidents and Maltreatment
SAMAHAN (Samahan ng mga Manggagawa sa Hanjin Shipyard) in its documentation observed in the early week of March 2011 an alarming frequency in fatal accidents occurring at the Subic site. In a span of six days (March 8 to 14) there were five documented accidents that seriously injured six (6) workers.
Also, in April 8 to 15 there were four different serious accidents wherein two workers died. These accidents require confinement in the hospital.
While, less serious accidents such as minor skin wounds or abrasions, skin irritation, swollen and irritated eyes from over-exposure to welding fumes and metal fillings and a loss of a limb or two occur with alarming frequency. Every day, the long line of workers awaiting treatment from the nurses on duty at the small clinic has become a living testimony to how dangerous shipyard work is.
On the contrary, from March 28 to June 11, the association documented six (6) cases of maltreatment of Filipino workers by Korean superiors. Maltreatment ranges from choking, kicking, being hit on the head with solid metal flashlight (Maglite) or being hit by an industrial scissor (used for cutting iron sheets).
Questionable Safety In the Workplace
The poor safety record of the light-industrial Zone and Freeport came to light in 2008 with a string of accidents and deaths. Congress and Senate Labor Committee took steps to conduct an inquiry into the matter. In the first quarter of 2009, the number of deaths reached twenty four (24) while according to the Occupational Health and Safety section of the Labor Department reported 5,000 accidents with 40 deaths. Workers were encouraged to expose how their Korean superiors handle them like yelling, swearing, knocking their heads, kicking and hitting them with hard objects in order to “extract obedience.” Food is another perennial problem as it was often stale or maggot laden. It was also pointed out that one of the reasons of the accidents is the widespread use of subcontractors. In an ocular visit conducted by Senator Jinggoy Estrada on the shipyard the following recommendations were cited:
Lack of medical facilities: need a 300 bed hospital facility with full time doctor and nurses Inadequate safety warning devices Broken safety shoes Improper use of safety gadgets Low salary
In a bid to promote a safer workplace, the workers struggled to organize a union. And despite complying with the requisites, the union registration was put on hold. Undeterred, Hanjin workers decided to organize and register SAMAHAN (Samahan ng mga Manggagawa sa Hanjin Shipyard) in the 1st quarter of 2009.
At first SAMAHAN’s registration was rejected but eventually issued last March 2010. But management appealed and DOLE Region III revoked their registration. Through the efforts of supportive Church groups like Urban Missionaries (UM-AMRSP) and the National Secretariat on Social Action, Justice and Peace (CBCP-NASSA JP), the SAMAHAN certificate reinstated by the National Director of DOLE-BLR last September 2010. The alarming return of fatalities and serious injuries and maltreatment by Korean superiors (with deliberateness unheard of in prior incidents) as well as stale, food provided at the canteen, the workers initiated to write a letter to the management last March 16, 2011. Included in this letter is the demand to reinstate the forty illegally dismissed union and SAMAHAN members.
The workers rejoiced when the management without answering the association’s letter for a dialogue started to fix their food, provide uniforms and safety gadgets such as: safety shoes, and goggles, gas mask and helmet to some employees. Yet, in two days time the workers are back to the old cycle: stale food, poor quality equipment and worn-out uniforms; followed by four consecutive accidents that resulted in the death of two workers last April 8 to 15, 2011.
In a bid to show their growing concern and alarm that the shipyard will once again be their graveyard the workers held lunch break noise barrage on the eve of May 1 and on May 26 they wrote a follow-up letter to the management.
The demands of the group are simple: create a committee between the Hanjin management and the workers representative from SAMAHAN to jointly resolve the following:
• Implementation of occupational health and safety standards like provision of PPE and building of an onsite 300-bed hospital facility within the site • Prevent maltreatment • Provide clean and healthy food • Reinstatement of the 40 illegally dismissed (suspected SAMAHAN and union members) and five (5) SAMAHAN leaders.
Sadly, instead of settling the issue, management responded with suspension, termination, illegal arrest and detention, even mauling perpetuated by Hanjin Security of SAMAHAN leaders. Special Action Force and Subic Police were also used by Hanjin management to repress the leaders of SAMAHAN. ###
Contact Persons: Alfie Alipio-President (SAMAHAN) 0930 1870 800 or Joey Gonzales-Secretary- 0907 8320 094 email@example.com Precy Dellomes (MAKABAYAN) 0905 3652 391 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Ernesto Arellano (President) (NUBCW–BWI) – 0922 8355 685 and Tess Borgonios – 0917 8256 954 email@example.com