Hanjin Workers’ Families, Kids and Friends Demand Immediate ‘Return to Work’ of Locked-out Employees
25 March, Manila – Some four hundred (400) family members, children, and friends of the remaining fifty three (53) locked out Hanjin workers trooped towards the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) office to demand the immediate return to work of the locked out employees.
“Ang nais namin, magtrabaho ng tuloy-tuloy dahil may mga pamilya kaming umaasa sa amin. Sa totoo, nakahanda kaming magserbisyo bilang maintenance sa yarda hanggang sa muling operasyon nito”, explained Efren Vinluan, President of Samahan ng mga Manggagawa sa Hanjin Shipyard (SAMAHAN-WPL). [We want to keep on working because our families depend on us. Honestly, we are ready to become shipyard maintenance workers until it restarts operations.]
Early this month, 113 out of the 312 workers left for shipyard maintenance were locked out of the worksite after refusing the Voluntary Retrenchment Package (VRP) offered by the Hanjin management, which entails a back-to-zero employment record and five-month work contracts. [Post continues after the slideshow]
“Kahit nagkakasakit, naaaksidente at may posibilidad na mamatay o maging inutil gaya ng mga katrabaho naming naaksidente sa yarda, nagtiyaga kami at nagtrabaho ng maayos alang-alang sa aming pamilya. Ngayong under voluntary rehabilitation ang kompanya, kalabisan ba ang hilingin naming manatili sa trabaho bilang maintenance sa yarda at isama kami hanggang sa muling pagbubukas nito?” lamented Vinluan. [We have patiently and diligently worked for the sake of our families, enduring illness, and life-threatening accidents, as some of our co-workers suffered. Now that the company is undergoing voluntary rehabilitation, is it too much to request to stay as maintenance workers until it reopens?]
Left on their own, workers brought their plight before Labor Department Secretary Bello, who said that the VRP was illegal. On March 11, Sec. Bello assigned Undersecretary Ana C. Dione to conduct an ocular visit to check on the complaints filed by the workers last March 13, 2019. Several follow-ups have been initiated by the workers to get a copy of their report, to no avail.
Hanjin Philippines is currently under corporate rehabilitation over a bank exposure fiasco since January 2019. The company has been criticized strongly in February 2009 due to a string of fatal accidents caused by non-compliance to workplace safety, maltreatment of workers by Korean superiors, and wanton violation of workers’ rights, such as the internationally enshrined right to self-organize and freedom of association, as written in the ILO Convention 87 and 98.
SAMAHAN reiterates DOLE data of 5,000 minor and major accidents in Hanjin’s first three years of operation. Apart from this, independently gathered data showed 53 deaths in Hanjin’s 10 years of operation, excluding those who died of malaria and occupational diseases.
Among these cases are that of Rodolfo Alvarez, who was permanently disabled after being caught between metal blocks in 2011. However, the company only provided him a few months of hospital medication and confinement. A meager amount of Php 18,000.00 was given as financial assistance after he was advised to recuperate at home.
In a statement, the labor center Workers for People’s Liberation (WPL) challenged the Labor Department to correct the decade-long injustice endured by the Filipino workers under the South Korean conglomerate to serve as a test case on how the current administration enforces labor policies and makes accountable giant foreign companies.
A call to action
July Sumayop of the UP Diliman League of College Councils–a member organization of the Friends of Hanjin Workers–calls DOLE to stand not just by the business interests of the foreign company and local big banks, but by the rights and welfare of the workers.
The Friends of Hanjin Workers, a student-led support group to the cause of Hanjin workers, calls upon all workers and Filipinos to struggle collectively against exploitative and oppressive companies like Hanjin, fight for job security, and put an end to contractualization.
“Our fight is a fight for justice and dignity not only for Hanjin workers but for all contractual Filipino employees. We will stand our ground”, ended Virgilio Rodrigo Jr. Secretary General of SAMAHAN-WPL.
July Sumayop – Friends of Hanjin Workers UP Diliman
[Note: Focus supported the mobilization to contribute to the strengthening of the workers’ resolve in the struggle against corporate abuse and impunity. In the long term, further documentation on the case of Hanjin as a concrete example of corporate abuse and impunity, in relation to our work on the UN Binding Treaty on Transnational Corporations and Human Rights.]
All photos by Galileo De Guzman Castillo