Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Hontiveros slams labor dep’t for clearing Hanjin in probe


SUBIC BAY FREEPORT – Akbayan Party-list Rep. Risa Hontiveros has asked the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) to look deeper into the deaths of several workers at the shipbuilding facility of South Korea’s Hanjin Heavy Industries Corp. here amid suspicions of a coverup in previous investigations.

Calling the earlier investigations haphazard and tantamount to a coverup, Hontiveros lambasted the findings of the DoLE Regional Office in Central Luzon clearing the Korean shipbuilder of liability in the most recent death of a Hanjin worker.

"It is very suspicious why the DoLE Regional Office only investigated the last accident when at least 17 workers have died since 2006 in the Korean shipbuilding facility. For almost two years now the DoLE has been remiss in its duty of ensuring workers’ safety in the shipyard; suddenly they will clear the Korean company of any liability," the Akbayan representative pointed out. Hontiveros was particularly alarmed by the timing of the release of the findings on the accident.

"DoLE cleared Hanjin of any responsibility a few days before the inauguration of its first ship on July 4 which President Arroyo was set to attend. Could it be that the DoLE was just sanitizing the reputation of the Korean firm since the President and other high government officials will grace the unveiling of its first vessel?" Hontiveros asked.

"The DoLE failed to seriously investigate the occupational health and safety conditions. It is quite obvious that Hanjin has serious lapses in this concern given the many deaths and injuries caused by work-related accidents in the shipyard. Did the DoLE team even bother to interview workers regarding their conditions?" the lawmaker added.

Citing Article 128 of the Labor Code, Hontiveros said that the secretary of labor or his representatives has visitorial and enforcement powers to ensure workers’ safety. "The DoLE should have inspected the Hanjin facility a long time ago. After so many accidents, a comprehensive investigation unlike the mere inspection they did must be done immediately," she said. The Akbayan solon stressed that the DoLE should also investigate the labor subcontracting practices of the Korean company.

"We have received reports that almost ninety percent of labor in Hanjin is subcontracted. This is made more serious by Hanjin’s practice of blaming its labor subcontractors for the accidents in its shipyard," the lawmaker said.

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