THE PAYMENT of separation benefits to workers of Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Corp. Philippines (HHIC-Phil) may have been clouded by the workers’ expectations of remaining employed by the failed shipyard, with the Labor department expressing doubt that the remaining workers can obtain relief.
The former shipyard workers staged protests at the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) seeking a tripartite dialogue involving DoLE and the shipyard’s receiver, which DoLE said it was willing to support though it was less certain of the outcome.
In an interview with BusinessWorld on Monday, Samahan ng Manggagawa sa Hanjin Shipyard (SAMAHAN) President Efran Vinluan said that the tripartite dialogue should include the rehabilitation receiver, Rosario S. Bernaldo.
Gusto namin na mag-file kami para sa tripartite dialogue kasama ang receiver, ang Hanjin, at ang DoLE na kailangan na maitawad kami (We want to initiate a tripartite dialogue with the receiver, Hanjin, and DoLE),” Mr. Vinluan said.
Hanjin continues to employ 53 workers as a skeleton crew for the shipyard. Last month, HHIC-Phil laid off more than 3,000 of its workers after defaulting on its loans to Philippine banks, leaving 312.
Mr. Vinluan said that out of the 312, 113 were “locked out” because they refused the voluntary retrenchment program. He added that the company was not able to give the remaining 53 benefits, such as separation pay, which was earlier committed to by DoLE during a previous dialogue.
DoLE Undersecretary Benjo Santos M. Benavidez said that the Labor department is open to dialogue but there is not much that the dialogue can do.
“The question is what is there to discuss?” Mr. Benavidez said in an interview with BusinessWorld on Monday.
He added: “It was not Hanjin that offered the voluntary retrenchment. It was the contractors.”
The remaining and laid-off workers are formally employed by 17 contractors. HHIC-Phil’s general contractor, Subic Shipbuilder Corp. (SUSHICOR), committed to pay its workers separation pay and other benefits.
Mr. Benavidez said that the remaining workers refused to receive their benefits because they did not want to apply for the voluntary retrenchment program. The Labor department is monitoring the payments by the contractors, with Mr. Benavidez saying most workers have been paid.
“The Secretary of Labor (Silvestre H. Bello III) pledged that we will facilitate the separation pay (but the workers don’t want to take it) because they want to return to Hanjin). They are questioning the retrenchment,” he said.
He said if these workers are challenging the legality of the program, the matter is beyond the mandate of DoLE.
The proper venue, he said, is the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), where an arbiter will determine what action can be taken.
He said: “If (the workers) are questioning the legality of the retrenchment, then (the workers should) file a case.” — Gillian M. Cortez