Hanjin Shipyard: Hell on Earth
To some, nothing can be more demeaning than being oppressed and maltreated by foreigners in your own country. Unfortunately, this is an everyday scenario in the lives of 16,000 Filipino workers of Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction-Philippines, just a little over 115 kilometers from Manila and located at Mt. Redondo Peninsula Agusuhin Cawag Subic, Zambales.
Hanjin is a Korean conglomerate which has established in the Philippines its premier shipyard, known as the 4th largest in the world. It expects to employ 45,000 by 2015. Since 2007, the facility exported fourteen (14) vessels worth sixty million US dollars each on the minimum. Accordingly, it has been touted as the premier foreign direct investment of the region.
Lack of employment security and just compensation
Despite its projected advantage for the province, regular flow of complaints on maltreatment, poor working conditions and unjust company rules flood the local office of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). On top of these concerns is the lack of employment security for the workers as they are frequently transferred from one subcontractor to another.
Filipino workers also complain that they were not provided a copy of their contract with the company nor were they given free board and lodging, food and transportation allowances as promised by the company prior to their hiring. Moreover, compared to their Korean counterparts, Filipino workers were paid ten times lower and only earned the minimum daily wage of Php 306.00, or $0.60/hour contrary to the agreed Php 600 daily wage.
Poor safety and precautionary standards
Accidents occur every week due to poor safety and precautionary standards. In 2008 alone, 5,000 work-related accidents have already been recorded including the 19 cases of death in the shipyard.
Workers handle heavy load of up to 800 tons of machinery and metal equipment with substandard safety gears and without substantial hands-on safety and precautionary training. The company requires its workers to earn their safety gear. Gaining proper gear depends on the duration of your stay at Hanjin, usually at least a year.
The only refuge area for accident-stricken workers is a small onsite clinic that does not have reliable medical facilities in treating injuries. Often, injured workers even had to comply to a lot of procedures before they are provided with clearance to exit the shipyard and wait for a ship to cross the sea to another island where guaranteed professional care and services can be availed.
Physical harassment and maltreatment
The workplace in the shipyard is dreadful especially in the presence of Korean foremen and supervisors who have no qualms hitting and punching anyone who upsets, disobeys and questions them, and sometimes these abuses are executed simply out of plain boredom. Basic necessities as taking a break to urinate or drink water in the middle of work are not allowed. Some workers are also forced to do their welding jobs under the scorching sun as part of the disciplinary routine of the Korean management.
Laidback enforcement of labor laws and tax breaks
Startlingly, the government plays deaf, blind and inutile in all the injustices and human rights abuses poor Filipinos are experiencing in the hands of these investors.
The case of Hanjin is a concrete example where the Philippine government guarantees foreign investors with a fifty-year lease and ten years of completely tax-free operations. These enabling factors provided by the government itself paved the way for highest degree of exploitation and profit maximization, enabling Hanjin to rake up over $470 million of profit in a span of three years.
Shunning labor unions
Hanjin targets to profit $3.4 billion by 2012 at any cost. In order to subvert any threat to achieving this goal, a memorandum preventing the establishment of any kind of union had been issued by the company to all workers. A union of Hanjin workers and Kilusan Para Sa Pambansang Demokrasya ( KPD) remain unrecognized. This act alone is an outright dissolution of the right of workers to organize which is a basic human right and guaranteed by the 1987 Philippine constitution.
Backing of local government
The local government washed its hands on all issues as it sees itself an “outsider” to the agreement made to us by the Korean government. The company and the local government now work hand-in-hand in ensuring the success of the project, making sure that everything is in good operation and at the dot according to their timetables. The city government is providing subsidized welding, computer and shipping education to all those interested in working at shipping industries. Morevover, Olongapo Mayor Bong Gordon has short of pleaded with Hanjin management to consider his privately-owned hospital, James L. Gordon Memorial Hospital, as the main health care service provider to its workers. In short, the mayor’s hospital will be Hanjin’s direct partner in assisting “accident-prone” workers.
NASSA, together with the Urban Missionaries and the Dicoese of Iba, is in solidarity with the workers of Hanjin whose rights are being violated in their own land. NASSA urges the Philippine government to intervene in the unfair policies of multinational companies and immediately address the complaints of workers for just compensation, healthy working conditions, right to self-association and flexible working conditions.
By: Marie Cristine Perez