March 16, 2009
At 4 p.m. today around a hundred supporters from the Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) and other labor unions picketed the gates of the Keppel shipyard. Workers from the Giardini del Sole, who were the first to go on strike against mass layoffs lent their support. “The fight of Keppel workers for jobs is the fight of all Cebuano workers,” declared Dennis Derige, spokesperson for PM-Cebu.
“Not just workers but even capitalists like the Cebu ship owners are opposing Keppel’s plan to shift from ship repair to ship building and retrench a big majority of regular workers. Yet Keppel maintains its hardline position,” explained Roger Igot, president of Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Baradero (NMB) Keppel Shipyard-National Federation of Labor (NFL).
Igot also revealed that documents from the Board of Investments which recently granted pioneer status to Keppel Sing-marine Philippines, Inc. show that the shipbuilder will employ 620 workers. Keppel Sing-marine Philippines is building a P590-million facility that will make tugboats and support vessels.
“That means once Keppel Cebu lays off 70% of the 280 regular workers and union members then the remaining 80 workers or so will be a tiny minority among more than 500 contractuals of Keppel Sing-marine. The contractual workers will only be paid the minimum wage and moreover will be without the protection of a union and benefit of a collective bargaining agreement,” insisted Igot.
Derige added that “How ironic that even as Keppel receives generous perks such as tax-and duty-free importation of capital equipment, income tax holiday of up to six years and exemption from wharf dues, export tax and import fees, it demolishes regular jobs and destroy workers lives. Foreign capitalists like Keppel get corporate welfare while Filipino workers are denied social protection. Any company that gets assistance from the government must be prohibited from mass layoffs on pain of losing these privileges.” ###