Church, Labor Reiterates Call for Safe, Humane Working Conditions


June 14, 2011



Church, Labor Reiterates Call for Safe, Humane Working Conditions


MANILA, Philippines – Today the NASSA-CBCP hosted a media briefing with representatives from SAMAHAN (Samahan ng mga Manggagawa sa Hanjin Shipyard) the workers’ association of the shipbuilding company Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Philippines, Inc. (HHICPI) to tackle the state of the 21,000 strong Hanjin workers and call upon the management of HHIC-Phils. Inc. (Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Inc. Phils.) to hear out their appeal for a safe and humane working condition and for the Aquino administration to expedite a resolution regarding urgent and long standing issues at the Subic Site.


SAMAHAN discloses that in a week (March 8-15) there were 6 fatal accidents recorded at the shipyard whereas from April 8-15; two workers died out of four accidents.  The cited examples of Korean superiors cases of physical abuse and ill-treatment on May 10 and 28 cases to Jenepher Abejo a welder who was hit on the right leg by an industrial scissor hurled at him by an angry Korean superior Mr. Yoon Ki Cheol and Christopher Alejandro who was strangled by Mr. Woo Yeon Lee peg the number of victims to 4 in a period of two months.


“This trend raises fear among us; it relives the 2008 graveyard scenario at the shipyard” Joey Gonzales, Secretary of SAMAHAN stated. He added that these incidents happen amidst DOLE’s ongoing cultural orientation and monitoring of the newly formed task force HANJIN.


“In 2008, during the peak of the deaths, the workers struggled to organize themselves into a union whose registration has been contested by the management for almost four years now and which was meet by the management with 18 cases of illegal dismissal that involves 40 workers which up to present remains unresolved” explained Atty. Ernesto Arellano of the National Union of Building and Wood Workers (NUBCW-BWI).


Undaunted, the workers formed a legitimate association to push for the redress of their grievances like: implementation of Occupational Health and Safety Standards such as provision of PPE and building of a 300-bed hospital facility, prevent maltreatment, clean and healthy food and the reinstatement of the 40 illegally dismissed workers which they enclosed in their letters to the management dated March 15 and May 26.


“Our efforts were to no avail as the management refuses to hear out our legitimate demands to our dismay; it even went as far as suspending 5 active SAMAHAN leaders.” Gonzales lamented.


Seeing their sincere efforts fail, in June 10 and 11, SAMAHAN launched noise barrages to air out their grievances. In the first day of the noise barrage which lasted 5 minutes, a worker was violently dragged by the Hanjin Police Security (HPS) towards their patrol car sparking tensions, but just in time the worker was prevented from being whisked away by his other co-workers. In the second day of the noise barrage which lasted for an hour. Elements of the Special Action Force (SAF) were dispatched to the area as requested by the Hanjin management but no tensions were reported.


Gonzales added that “Instead of listening to our legitimate demands, they answer back with force. We do not want any fights; we just wanted the Hanjin management to listen to us.”


For its part, a political labor and trade union center Manggagawa para sa Kalayaan ng Bayan (MAKABAYAN), lambasted the Labor Department for their inaction on the Hanjin issue. “Clearly, Hanjin is remiss in implementing both international and national laws on basic labor rights it should be made accountable for the deaths of its workers.”


The Roman Catholic Church through the NASSA CBCP was also concerned at the apparent compromise of workers’ safety as well as physical abuses by Korean company managers. Quoting from a social encyclical by the late Pope John Paul II, the Church emphasizes that “The human dignity of the worker must be recognized in labor; it cannot be bought and sold like a piece of merchandise.”


SAMAHAN appeals to President Noynoy Aquino to provide an urgent resolution to the Hanjin workers’ concerns by ensuring that they are properly represented in every investigation and consultation with the management on decision makings that involve their lives and livelihood.


Gonzales ends, “If he is really keen in leading the country to a straight path, then he must start by looking after the welfare of the workers of the Hanjin shipyard, as well as the Filipino workers as a whole.” ###


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