Behind Every Hanjin Vessel:

Living and Dying in Hanjin Shipyard, Philippines

In 2005, the Arroyo administration, inking a 50-year lease agreement with Korean shipping giant, Hanjin Shipping and its Philippine arm, Hanjin Heavy Industries Corporation (HHIC-Philippines), bagged what would be the biggest influx of investment to date.  Earmarked for Hanjin was two hundred and sixty-three hectares in Subic Freeport Zone (formerly US Subic Naval Base); Hanjin got generous benefits bundled with the deal like ten-year tax holidays .

Already, word had gone out that there would be jobs aplenty, Hanjin expected to employ forty-five thousand workers by year 2015.

Simple Dreams Broken      

Applicants from as far South as Cagayan De Oro and Surigao to as far North as Kalinga and the Cordilleras, would leave for Subic with simple dreams for their loved ones back home. Often ‘coordinators’ or intermediaries from their home provinces would go with them until they are able to settle into apartments or workers’ barracks.

In Subic, they train in Hanjin’s KC Tech/Green Beach for one to three months and received an allowance of Php 150 (USD 3.00). Once they pass, they undergo six months probation. Some received further training in Korea for three months with an allowance of Php 7,000 (USD 155.00).

Hanjin’s forty-two sub-contractors divide the workers among themselves. They sign a five-year contract that provides board, lodging, transportation and food.

This practice conveniently absolves Hanjin of liability, as they are able to argue that they do not directly employ any of the fifteen thousand workers currently found in the Subic shipyard. Except during the early years of Hanjin operation, workers do not even receive their termination papers. Periodically, the Hanjin management makes them sign new employment contracts with their sub-contractors that takes turn in “hiring” them.

In truth, they neither receive those benefits nor do they get to keep a copy of their contract. They earn Php 306.00 (USD 0.60/ hour) a day. Three percent of their salaries are for ‘training expenses’ and a quarter of their take-home pay is spent on transportation. They reside in cramped apartments with six to eight or more in a room to share the rent. Other deplorable work conditions are:

  • The Hanjin canteen offers workers sub-standard food. Sometimes these are spoiled and worst is maggot-laden food or thin gruel and unpalatable scraps which are better suited for pigs or ’kanin-baboy’. In contrast, the Korean superiors are well paid, well fed and well provided for.
  • They work in two shifts: 8am to 5pm and 7pm to 4am but are made to report thirty minutes earlier.  Sometimes they are forced to work back-to-back shifts. Their IDs and cell phones confiscated upon entry into the compound. Often, they are bullied verbally, physically and psychologically to extract acquiescence and obedience.
  • From 2007 to 2009, work-related deaths came to the public eye. More than 5,000[i] accidents which resulted to 17 fatal accidents and the death of 28 workers (crushed by tons of metal, impaled by slabs, fell off a platform and death by suffocation) while some counted 321 malaria cases among workers and residents around Hanjin suffered from malaria cases[ii]. Aside from this, workers were burnt or scalded, cut, maimed and bruised inside Hanjin shipyard to an alarming degree. The culprit: Hanjin was beating its targets of building ships while rushing to finish its shipyard facilities.

Ironically, their simple dreams died with them as the victim’s families were unable to claim any death benefits; some even signed waivers under duress.

  • The small on-site clinic with its only part-time medical personnel and staff and was inadequate for the fifteen thousand strong workforce with the nearest hospital more than an hour away. According to the Labor Code, the on-site health facility must be a fully functioning 150-300 bed hospital. In addition, personal protective equipments, a must, given the dangerous nature of shipbuilding, were scarce, substandard and dirty. Management brushed aside complaints and reprimand complainants.
  • Hanjin did not budge even after the Senate Labor Committee looked into the cases of deaths made public by workers, relatives and concerned citizens. It even denied some of the deaths in its report to the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority claiming only nineteen of the twenty-nine incidents.

Studies made by labor center Manggagawa para sa Kalayaan ng Bayan or MAKABAYAN, based on the pattern of ailments being observed among the workers, indicates an alarming trend of death from lung and respiratory ailments in two to three years time.  There was a case where a doctor found steel filings embedded in the lungs of an unfortunate worker.

The Labor Department rated Hanjin’s compliance to health and safety standards at 42.6%. It says Hanjin was partially compliant on major areas of concern while fully compliant on minor matters.

The World’s Fourth Largest Ship Builder Comes to the Philippines

So what is so special about Hanjin Shipping? It is a part of the Hanjin Group and sister company to Korean Air. It has made a name for itself from World War II and lucrative deals with the US military in all the major wars of the 20th century. A big fish has come to our little pond and is thumbing its nose on our labor laws and on our people’s rights. (Since World War II, Hanjin has made a name for itself through lucrative deals with the US military in all the major wars of the 20th century.)

Behind Every Vessel

Since 2007, the Hanjin shipyard has exported 14 ships with the smallest (4300 TEU) containership priced at USD 60,000,000. As of last count, the unpaid extra thirty minutes since 2008 now amounts to Php 377, 400,000 (USD 8,386,667). The period coinciding with the deaths in Hanjin was the period the company earned USD 470 Million.

By its own account, management estimates windfall of USD 3.4 Billion by 2012 because of the accelerated pace of work. Pushed by untenable and inhumane working conditions, workers found refuge in their unity but are facing persecution from management.

Many of the active members were laid-off, suspended or subjected to ‘refresher courses’ that entail clearing garbage inside the compound and para-military exercises, all under the intense heat of the sun. Hanjin sent some of them to its shipyard in Mindanao, left their tenure pending. Indefinitely, framed for stealing Hanjin’s property and later suspended them for a month.

Through their perseverance, however, workers’ association the Samahan ng Manggagawa sa Hanjin or SAMAHAN won its accreditation early this year, the but this too is perpetually harassed by management and its hired goons.

Action Points

Imagine, signing up for a shipyard and ending up in a graveyard! We believe that development can only be possible when we treat our human resources, in this case Filipino labor, with respect and dignity.

The sheer size of the Hanjin workforce makes it a rarity in the labor landscape and the extent of the violation of internationally recognized labor standards makes it a chilling precedent if gone unchecked. Thus, the SAMAHAN along with MAKABAYAN would be initiating a campaign to demand that labor standards must operate within Hanjin shipyard.

For more information on Hanjin and its workers contact:

Precy Dellomes (MAKABAYAN) contact number: 0922 2749 049



Alfie Alipio (SAMAHAN President) 09301870800

E-mail Address:

Also you can access us online at


If possible, we would like to ask you to cover such events in your media organization. The spokesperson for SAMAHAN, Mr. Alfie Alipio would be more than happy to accommodate your queries.

Also, we’re willing to host a ‘reality-tour’ to Hanjin.

Data cited from DOLE as of February 20, 2009

[ii]Data cited from the DOH’s National Epidemiology Center study as of

 January to June 2007