Sunday, July 3, 2011

Protest caravan presses Hanjin to comply with safety and other labor standards

03 July 2011

Disgusted with 5,000 accidents resulting to at least 31 deaths since it operated in the country, the labor group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) today took part in the labor and church led “Caravan for Decent Work and Humane Working Conditions” from Manila to the Subic Bay Freeport in Olongapo City where the sprawling complex of Hanjin shipyard is located. The caravan, co-organized by the Church-Labor Conference (CLC), is met along the way by workers from Pampanga and Bataan under the Manggagawa para sa Kalayaan ng Bayan (Makabayan) and Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya (KPD).

A group of cyclists and motorcyclists are to meet them at Olongapo City for a short program at Hanjin shipyard.  After the program, CLC co-chair and CBCP National Secretariat for Social Action Bishop Broderick Pabillo leads the mass at Brgy. Wawandue in Subic.  A torch parade around the city follows by nightfall. The Partido ng Manggagawa has been labelling the Korean-owned shipyard as the “graveyard of workers’ rights” for the appalling number of work-related deaths and accidents lying above many other labor rights violations in the company.

“Deaths, accidents, massive contractualization, cruelty against workers, poor working conditions and the denial of workers’ right to self organization, are things that cannot just be put under the rugs by the labor movement, the Church, the government, and the international community,” declared PM Chair Renato Magtubo. A labor department’s Occupational Safety and Health Standard (OSHS) director disclosed that based on its own investigation there were already some 5,000 reported accidents in Hanjin in the first two years of its operation.

Hanjin began its Philippine operations in 2006. The labor group Makabayan has put the number of work related deaths at Hanjin to 31; 11 cases of maltreatment by Korean superiors; 63 illegal termination; and 20 illegal suspension.

Workers also complain of spoiled foods being served to them, the rude physical treatment they are getting from their Korean superiors, and the low wages they receive since they are all employed through subcontractors. “Subjecting Hanjin’s 21,000 workforce into this cruel world of industrial relations is a national policy question that has to be addressed by Pnoy regardless of Koreans bringing in billions of pesos of investment in the country,” argued Magtubo. On 2009, the Senate Labor Committee conducted an inquiry on Hanjin and found many lapses in safety standards and other labor law violations.  The Department of Labor and Employment on the other hand came out with a circular for safety compliance yet deaths and accidents still hound the shipyard.

Labor and church groups are urging the government to strictly enforce all safety standards in Hanjin and compel the company to observe the Philippine and international standards on decent work, including the workers’ right to organize -- specifically the recognition of the Samahan ng mga Manggagawa sa Hanjin. The group is also asking for the cancellation of permit to operate of some 19 contractors which supply 100 percent of Hanjin’s contractual employees.

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