THE 8,000 workers at the Korean-owned Hanjin Heavy Industries Corp. are overworked, unprotected and not getting overtime, health benefits or holiday pay, an investigation by the Labor Department and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority shows.
“The shipyard has become a graveyard,” Valenzuela City Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo said, referring to the 19 workers who have died at the Subic-based engineering and construction company during a hearing of the House committee on labor and employment, which he heads.
Senior Deputy Administrator Ramon Agregado said the “dramatic increase” in the number of deaths at Hanjin was due to the frenzy of construction and shipbuilding activities there.
“Most of the 19 fatalities and 369 victims were hit by a falling object,” Agregado told the committee.
“Accidents occur at the 9th hour of their work. They work up to 15 hours.”
Labor Department Director Nathaniel Lacambra said that as of Feb. 20, some 30 of the 55 Hanjin subcontractors had been inspected and found to have violated 11 general labor standards and 10 occupational safety and health standards.
Hanjin was found to have underpaid their workers, who were not receiving the minimum wage, 13th month pay, cost-of-living allowances, or overtime and holiday pay, Lacambra said.
Workers were given dilapidated safety shoes, welders had no gas masks or goggles, open ditches were not properly covered, and no doctor was on duty during the night shift, Lacambra said. The company filed no accident or illness reports to the Labor Department, and did not give its workers medical coverage or housing loan benefits.
Hanjin subcontractors also failed to show certificates of testing for newly acquired heavy equipment.
Agregado said over 70 million man-hours were involved in building two dry docks, four hull shops, warehouses, assembly shops, support facilities, an internal road network and four goliath cranes.
“From its groundbreaking in May 2006 and first steel cutting in March 2007, Hanjin was able to complete its first dry dock in December 2007 and the launching of its first ship in February 2008. In December 2008, Hanjin completed its second dry dock,” Agregado said.
“Over 70 million man-hours were consumed in the course of construction on 24/7 basis in a 31-month period,” Agregado said.
He said a third of those killed were workers aged between 18 and 25, and the oldest was 52.
“Most of the deaths occurred between 8 a.m. and 12 noon, when most are doing overtime from the night shift,” Agregado said.
Congressmen at the hearing said they were appalled by the safety record.
“Shame!” said Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros, who first called for the investigation.
Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano added: “So the first ship that was sold and is now sailing is made out of the blood and tears of our Filipino workers.”
Baguio City Rep. Mauricio Domogan could shook his head.
P. J. Yu, Hanjin’s managing director, read a short statement saying the Korean company had come to the Philippines to invest.
“We hope that the relationship of our two countries would continue to be productive,” he said.
“Motherhood statements. Give the committee a copy of your motherhood statement,” Gunigundo said.
Gunigundo’s mood did not improve when Agregado said that under the Labor Code, the penalty for safety violations was P5,000 to P10,000.
“It is simply a slap on the wrist,” Agregado said.
Gunigundo said the committee would conduct another hearing before making recommendations on what to do with Hanjin’s violations.–Christine F. Herrera, Manila Standard Today