Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

DOLE: Shutting down Hanjin means 18,000 more jobless Pinoys

A labor official on Tuesday opposed proposals to completely close down Hanjin Heavy Industries Co. Philippines (HHIC-Phil) shipbuilding facility in Subic despite its safety problems.

Nathaniel Lacambra, director of the Department of Labor and Employment for Central Luzon, said shutting down the entire plant is not a win-win solution, especially if it means job losses for about 18,000 workers.

"If we shut down the entire plant just because one unit or one sector has violated labor standards, then we will be starving 15 to 17 thousand Filipinos," Lacambra said in a statement.

Lacambra said applying for a variation order -- or an approved change in a project -- would be a practical solution as it would directly address the company's safety concerns. At the same time, he said such would prevent HHIC-Phil from incurring penalties, which may eventually lead to the firm's closure.

Citing a previous request by the firm, Lacambra said HHIC-Phil has sought a variation order from the Bureau of Working Conditions regarding the 600-ton capacity "Goliath" cranes it uses in Subic. The said order, Lacambra said, allowed Hanjin suppliers to test the cranes.

"If they could do that with the cranes, then probably they could do the same with the hospital or the medical facility requirements. That could be the win-win solution," he said.

Aside from variation orders, Lacambra said HHIC-Phil will be required to comply with the DOLE's occupational safety standards (DOSS). He said, however, that the department has yet to look at the "practical side" of the said standard.

Under the DOSS, Lacambra said firms are required to provide one doctor for every 100 workers they employ. This means 150 to 200 doctors -- to be assisted by full-time nurses, dentists, and first aid workers -- should be provided by the firm for its 18,000-strong labor force.

"As a result, we might be building a hospital here that is bigger than the (Philippine) General Hospital," he said.

Last Thursday, Lacambra accompanied Sen. Jinggoy Estrada in inspecting HHIC-Phil in Subic. The shipyard facility was suspended after 19 deaths were recorded for the past two years.

Estrada, chairman of the Senate Labor Committee, proposed that Hanjin halt its operations until it has complied with proper health and safety standards.

"On a scale of 1 to 10, I am giving them a rate of 5 or 6. As you have seen, there are some workers without safety helmets, and there are others wearing worn-out shoes," Estrada said.

"Then there is this serious allegation from workers that they have to finish their work at all cost because they have a deadline to beat, even if it means more accidents. That is not fair on the part of the workers," he added. abs-cbnNEWS.com

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