Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Hanjin advised to abide by laws

By Ding Cervantes - PHILIPPINE STAR

SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga – The Department of Labor and Employment in Central Luzon advised yesterday the Korean shipbuilding firm Hanjin Heavy Industries, Inc. (Hanjin) in Subic, Zambales “not to entangle itself further with Philippine laws” amid reports it has been blocking the foreign employment of its former workers.

This, even as DOLE regional director Nathaniel Lacambra told The Star he will be ready with a “comprehensive report” on the accidents, including 14 deaths, involving workers of Hanjin since it established at Subic in 2006.

Lacambra said the report will be ready within this month in time for the next budget hearing in Congress.

“It will contain our findings on the incidents, our recommendations, and the actions of Hanjin,” he said.

At the same time, former Zambales vice governor Ramon Lacbain, chairman of the newly formed People’s Task Force on Hanjin and Subic Bay Inc. (PTFH-SB), cited the case of at least 30 former workers of Hanjin who were allegedly prevented by Hanjin, reportedly through the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, from leaving the country for employment in another firm abroad.

Lacbain’s task force is a non-government organization supported by Zambales Gov. Amor Deloso.

Lacbain told The Star that the workers, who either resigned from, or were terminated by Hanjin, already had their working visa and contract of work in other companies abroad but were refused authentication by the POEA.

He said that apparently, Hanjin wanted each of its former workers to first pay some P150,000 cost of training which they underwent before they got employed at the shipbuilding facility at Subic.

“I initially thought that training for employment at Hanjin was for free,” Lacbain said.

He said that Hanjin and POEA had no right to prevent the former Hanjin workers from being employed abroad. “If Hanjin has a case against them, then the proper venue would be the courts,” he said.

The POEA, he noted, issues the required authentication of contract for those leaving for employment in other countries.

Lacambra confirmed at least 10 such cases which the DOLE here had settled. He said that after the settlement of the cases, he warned Hanjin officials that its policy against its former workers was “oppressive restriction.”

“The workers included engineers who received only P7,000 pay per month. I think they had a five-year contract with Hanjin and if they failed to finish this contract, they were supposed to pay their cost of training in Korea,” he said.

Lacbain said, however, that Hanjin has been deducting three percent from the salaries of its trained workers to cover the cost of training.

But Miriam Pangan, administrative officer of the POEA in Central Luzon, said Hanjin had the right to prevent its former workers from seeking other employment abroad for “breach of contract”.

She said that the POEA has in its database a “watchlist” of persons who could not be given the required authentication. “The reasons are stated in our data base,” she said.

Pangan said, however, that she was not aware of any arrangement between her regional office and Hanjin, although she noted that transactions involving employment agencies are processed only at the POEA central office.

Lacbain said he is seeking the help of the city council of Olongapo City and the provincial board of Zambales to look into the case of the former Hanjin workers.
Probe on deaths at Hanjin

Lacambra said the DOLE regional office has not been remiss in investigating on the accidents at the 250-hectare Hanjin shipyard facility at Subic.

“We have investigated all the deaths, starting from the first fatality that involved a 17-year-old minor,” he said.

“Hanjin is gradually complying with our recommendations,” he said, noting that the accident that led to the 14th fatality last week apparently was, in a way, triggered by the enforcement of DOLE’s recommendation for Hanjin to organize a safety patrol in the shipyard.

“The victim’s safety hat fell off and he unlocked his body harness to run after it because if the safety patrol caught him without hat, he could be suspended,” Alcambra noted.

He said that despite Hanjin’s compliance with safety and other such recommendations of the DOLE, accidents at the shipyard would remain likely. “There are about 12,000 workers spread over 250 hectares in the area,” he noted.

“We have investigated all the 14 deaths of workers at Hanjin and each time, we came out with comprehensive reports and recommendations,” he said.

Alcambra also noted that Hanjin has a “work safety practitioner” accredited by DOLE. “This practitioner could lose his accreditation if he fails to report on accidents within 24 hours,” he added.

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