SBMA chief: Let’s work together for the sake of our workers | SubicNewsLink

04 February 2009

SBMA chief: Let’s work together for the sake of our workers

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) administrator and chief executive officer Armand Arreza called for joint efforts in addressing safety issues at the Hanjin shipyard and construction site in Redondo, Zambales.

“Due to the risks inherent in shipbuilding activities, we need to strengthen safety guidelines and build up the safety consciousness of individual workers to ensure their welfare. But we can only do this if all concerned government agencies would work together towards this end,” Arreza said.

At present, at least some 20,000 workers are fielded in shipbuilding and construction work in the 236-hectare facility. This number oftentimes swells, depending on the level of work activities to be done.

In the joint Senate labor and local government committee hearing held last Tuesday, SBMA reported that the majority of the accidents that occurred last year were due to “unsafe acts” or workers’ behavior, while others were caused by both unsafe acts and work conditions.

Arreza said this makes it imperative for the SBMA, the Department of Labor and Employment, and Hanjin not only to look more deeply into the safety conditions of the workplace but also to cultivate a culture of safety among the workers, most of who come from the informal sector.

“Although we’re working together with DOLE to ensure that Hanjin complies with our Labor Code, we need to focus not just on minimum compliance, as this does not seem adequate to protect workers engaged in big-scale shipbuilding activities,” Arreza noted, as he reiterated the need to build a culture of safety, “which cannot be done overnight”.

According to the SBMA chief, the agency is thus going beyond the minimum requirements of labor laws and is in the process of introducing more stringent guidelines based on the standards of the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to ensure the workers’ protection.

“The OSHA has specific guidelines for each industry type, particularly shipbuilding, which it describes as ‘traditionally hazardous with an injury-accident rate more than twice that of construction and general industry’,” Arreza explained.

He added that by addressing workers’ safety effectively, “not only will we be able to prevent work-related injuries, illnesses and deaths but also ensure that the benefits of gainful employment redound to the improved welfare of workers and their families”.

Meanwhile, HHIC-Phil president Jeong Sup Shim expressed Hanjin’s equally serious concern for safety issues plaguing the US$ 1.68-billion company since it began operating in Redondo in 2006.

“We take our workers’ safety seriously,” he said, adding that Hanjin would like nothing more than to ensure that all its workers are well-protected and oriented about safety guidelines.

Shim also disclosed that Hanjin’s annual payroll and workers’ benefits have reached almost PhP3 billion, which go directly to workers and their families.

“Despite the global recession, Hanjin continues to maintain its very big workforce and we hope that this contributes both to the national and local economy,” he said, referring to the revenues and the multiplier effect that its operations here generate.

Nonetheless, the Hanjin executive gave the assurance that Hanjin would continue to cooperate with concerned authorities in addressing safety issues.

“We are doing a lot to comply (with labor and safety requirements), but we are ready to do even more,” he affirmed. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

PHOTO: SBMA Administrator & CEO Armand Arreza