By Leslie Ann Aquino
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III has called for an emergency meeting today (Tuesday) with labor officials to discuss the possible impact to workers of Korean shipmaking Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Corporation its filing for bankruptcy.
“The emergency meeting is to discuss the possible measures that will help cushion the impact of the Hanjin issue,” he said in an interview.
Based on reports, among Hanjin’s financial woes that are at the core of its decision to apply for corporate rehabilitation at the Olongapo Regional Trial Court is its standing $400 million debt to lending local banks.
Due to this, some 3,000 employees of the firm are feared to be at risk of losing their jobs.
On Sunday, labor group Nagkaisa urged government to intervene and save the jobs of thousands of workers.
“These workers have sacrificed for many years to keep the shipyard going. Some of them even lost their lives due to the company’s negligence. We can’t let all their sacrifices be wasted,” said Atty. Sonny Matula, chairperson of Nagkaisa! Labor Coalition in a statement.
“We highly recommend that government takes over the financial rehabilitation and operation of the shipyard,” he added.
Nagkaisa said it is also inclined to cooperate with others in the spirit of social dialogue to save the jobs of thousands of workers in Hanjin.
“We request that a joint task force be formed with DOLE, DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) and DOF (Department of Finance) with employers groups and trade unions to urgently develop an industrial plan around ship building,” Matula said.
Nagkaisa, however, expressed caution over a Chinese takeover of Hanjin saying allowing the shipyard to fall in the hands of China may have security implications.
“We encourage the government to explore technical cooperation with other ship building countries that have no territorial ambitions in the region such as Norway,” Matula said.
“Apart from the fact that Norway has a robust ship building industry such as the Aker Group and offers and gives assistance and employment to our seafarers, our country also have a close relationship with Norway in the peace process with the National Democratic Front (NDF),” he added.