Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Hanjin faces 2nd suspension over deaths

The Korean shipbuilder Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Philippines Inc. is facing an indefinite suspension following the recent deaths of two Filipino workers in its shipyard at the Subic Bay Freeport.

Armand Arreza, administrator of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, has recommended this to the SBMA board, which will discuss the matter on Friday, a top government official working closely with the SBMA told the Inquirer.

The halt on Hanjin’s operations will stay “until all issues are resolved,” the source quoted Arreza as saying.

The source asked that he be not identified because he was not authorized to issue an official statement on the matter.

2nd suspension

If the board approves the recommendation, this will be the second time that Hanjin will be suspended. The first was in July after a worker died and four others were injured in a work-related accident.

Arreza, said the source, has also recommended the termination of Philnorkor, one of Hanjin’s 39 subcontractors.

Two of Philnorkor’s employees had died at the workplace, the latest being Jose Vener Gil. An air conditioning unit’s duct, weighing about 250 kg, fell on Gil as he was unshackling it on Nov. 26, initial investigation showed.

Hanjin general manager Pyeong Jong Yu clarified that the death of Philip Mendoza and the injury on three other workers, including a Korean, on Nov. 20 was due to a vehicular accident.

15 accidents

These raised to 15 the work-related accidents and to two the traffic-related incidents, Yu said.

He said the company was exerting its best efforts to make its workplaces accident-free.

The series of deaths had prompted Sen. Pia Cayetano to call for an investigation by the Senate labor committee not only to check the compliance of Hanjin with labor and safety standards but also to verify the supposed poor enforcement of SBMA and the Department of Labor and Employment of labor laws.

Hanjin and the two government agencies have welcomed the investigation.

On Monday, Yu denied a claim by an official of the DOLE’s Occupational Safety and Health Center (OSHC) that Hanjin had refused to conduct safety training.

2 letters

“We never received any official letter requesting us to [conduct] continuous appreciation course by the OSHC,” Yu told the Inquirer.

He said he has checked all the documents Hanjin has received from the OSHC but found only two letters.

An Aug. 27 letter, he said, was about the conduct of an “appreciation course on occupational safety and health for 600 people who will in turn advocate the appreciation course to co-workers.” He said this course was completed.

The OSHC said it gave training to workers of Hanjin and its subcontractors in September.

In another letter, dated Oct. 3, Yu said OSHC wrote to request Hanjin to allow site visit.

“We respectfully refused due to hectic schedule of constructing shipyard and shipbuilding,” Yu said.

After completing one ship in August from its shipyard in Subic, Zambales, Hanjin still has to build nine more.

The shipyard has employed about 8,000 workers, mostly Filipinos. At least 5,000 workers have been hired in the construction of a second shipyard there.

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