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09 February 2009

DOLE seeks ‘win-win’ solution to Hanjin problem

The government and other concerned sectors should be able to come up with a “practical solution” to address safety problems at the Hanjin shipbuilding facility while guaranteeing the jobs of about 18,000 shipyard workers, a top labor official stressed recently.

Nathaniel Lacambra, director of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Central Luzon, said that while the Hanjin Heavy Industries Co.-Philippines (HHIC-Phil) may be required to adhere strictly to safety standards, shutting down the facility would not be a good idea.

“Our laws allow the issuance of cease and desist order (CDO) to Hanjin. But to shut down the entire plant, I think, is not a win-win solution,” Lacambra said.

“If we shut down the entire plant just because one unit or one sector has violated labor standards, then we will be starving 15 to 17 thousand Filipinos,” he added.

Lacambra, who accompanied Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada in inspecting the Hanjin facility last Thursday, was reacting to suggestions that work at the shipyard be suspended after 19 deaths had been recorded there since 2007.

Estrada himself, who heads the Senate labor committee, had proposed that Hanjin halt its operations here until it has complied with standards to ensure workers’ safety.

However, Lacambra said that a “practical” solution should be worked at for the benefit of workers.

One way to do this, he said, is to require HHIC-Phil to apply for variation orders to improve health and safety conditions in the shipyard and avoid being penalized.

At the same time, the government will require Hanjin to comply with the DOLE’s occupational safety standards (DOSS), he added.

As an example, Lacambra cited Hanjin’s request for a variation order from the Bureau of Working Conditions (BWC) regarding the 600-ton capacity “goliath” cranes that Hanjin uses in Subic.

Lacambra said that because no professional testing organization in the country could test the cranes, the variation order allowed that testing be made by Hanjin suppliers.

“If they could do that with the cranes, then probably they could do the same with the hospital or the medical facility requirements. That could be the win-win solution,” said Lacambra.

The labor official also pointed out that under the DOSS, firms are required to provide one doctor for every 100 workers they employ. In this case, Lacambra added, Hanjin which has about 18,000 workers should have from 150 to 200 doctors, who are to be assisted by full time nurses, dentists and first aid workers.

As a result, “we might be building a hospital here that is bigger than the (Philippine) General Hospital,” Lacambra said.

“So, we should be looking for the practical aspect and the practical side of it,” he added.

Meanwhile, Estrada said during last Thursday’s inspection that he gave Hanjin a poor rating for its poor implementation of occupational health and safety regulations.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, I am giving them a rate of 5 or 6,” Estrada said. “As you have seen there are some workers without safety helmets, and there are others wearing worn-out shoes.”

“Then there is this serious allegation from workers that they have to finish there work at all cost because they have a deadline to beat, even if it means more accidents. That is not fair on the part of the workers,” he added.

Estrada also noted the lack of regular medical personnel in the area, especially after 5:00 p.m., so that injured workers had to be brought to a hospital in Olongapo City which is about 20 kilometers away.

Estrada reiterated that he would like officials of Hanjin to answer more safety concerns at the shipyard safety when the Senate probe resumes on Wednesday.

Still, Estrada added that he will await recommendations from DOLE officials before taking actions on the Hanjin safety issues. (30)

PHOTO:
Hanjin director Pyeong Jong Yu (left) answers questions from Senator “Jinggoy” Estrada and DOLE Region 3 director Nathaniel Lacambra during an inspection on Thursday. The Senate labor committee headed by Estrada is now investigating unsafe conditions at the shipyard, where 19 workers had died since 2007.

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