Filipino Americans Call on the Philippine Government to Protect and Render Justice to the Hanjin Shipyard Workers in Subic
We, the Filipino American community in the United States and our allies express our militant solidarity with Hanjin Shipyard workers in their struggle to unionize and thus end their deplorable working conditions which has led to at least 24 deaths. In January of this year, two more were killed while just as February began, 24 were hurt when a bus carrying workers to the shipyard overturned.
We are appalled by the slow response of the Philippine Senate and the Executive branch and their failure to act on the continuing fatal accidents and deaths of workers at Hanjin Shipbuilding.
While we hold Hanjin, a South Korean transnational corporation employing 15,000 workers in the Philippines, directly accountable for the extremely unacceptable living and working conditions of Filipino workers, we equally hold the Philippine government complicit for acting against the country's national interests and against Filipino workers interests. We demand that the Philippine Government compel the Hanjin Shipyard company to clean up the docks and work areas, ensure worker safety, enforce environmental laws and provide just wages and benefits to Filipino workers.
The Philippine Government of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo should hang its head in shame for allowing foreign-owed companies to treat Filipino workers like slaves and peons, their very lives sacrificed for corporate profits which redound to South Korea, not the Filipino nation. Any government that does this is worthless.
We, overseas Filipinos and progressive allies in the United States, strongly condemn the Philippine government for its inaction in holding Hanjin responsible for the poor working conditions, continuing accidents and deaths of its workers. Indeed, the Department of Labor and Employment has absolved Hanjin and shifted the blame to Hanjin's subcontractors of other nationalities, instead of holding both accountable. Such a Department of Labor and Employment is inutile.
While the Korean-owned Hanjin may be the fourth largest ship-building company in the world, it is also true that Filipino labor is among the finest and most skilled in the world. It is not as though the Philippines brings nothing to the table for Hanjin. No ship can be built without workers, no matter how brilliant the blueprints and management. It is therefore crucial to any enterprise that workers are treated well and recognized for their contribution to production. We therefore support the workers' struggle to unionize. The right to self-organization and collective bargaining is a human right, not simply a labor right.
In this we join our Canadian brothers and sisters who had met with some Hanjin Shipyard workers in 2008. At these meetings, they learned that many workers, labeled "trainees," make less than the Philippine-legislated minimum wage. They are often brought in from outlying provinces and end up living in nearby make-shift barracks that are in very poor condition (plywood shacks that are the size of a common bedroom with bunk beds and a burner), housing fourteen young men at a rental cost of Php600/month each. They also suffer from many forms of harassment, including physical harassment, from Korean supervisors.
Unfortunately, union organizers expect strong negative reactions to the unionization effort from both the Philippine and Korean governments, as well as Hanjin's own management. It is therefore imperative that Filipino workers overseas, as well as compatriots of Philippine ancestry and comrades in the labor movement, provide a counter-pressure to the efforts of the murderous Hanjin Shipyard, in collaboration with the Philippine government, to frustrate the Subic Bay workers' dream of a union.
Stand up and demand that the Philippine Government support its own workers!
Stand up and demand that the Philippine Government stop foreign corporate bullies from emasculating Philippine labor, environment and occupational safety laws.
Stand up and support the Hanjin Shipyard workers!
Stand up and support the labor movement which is integral to the global struggle for justice!
Kabataang Maka-Bayan (KmB)
Ecumenical Fellowship for Justice and Peace (EFJP)
Philippine Studies Collective-Bay Area
DAMAYAN Migrant Workers Association -New York
Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California (PWC-SC)
Echo Park Community Coalition (EPCC)
Justice for Filipino American Veterans (JFAV)
Faith, Workers For Justice and Peace-San Francisco
Free Palestine Alliance
Contact: Rev. Richard R. Bowley