CLARK FREEPORT, Pampanga, Philippines – The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) has junked its contract with the Korean Hanjin ship building firm in Subic that bars former shipyard workers from seeking jobs abroad.
This was what POEA chief legal counsel Josefino Naval told Zambales Vice Gov. Ramon Lacbain II and provincial board members amid complaints from former Hanjin workers that the agency has been stopping them from leaving for jobs abroad due to their unfinished five-year contract with the Korean firm.
Lacbain has fought against the memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the POEA and Hanjin that prohibited shipyard workers, who have either resigned or have been fired for various reasons, from landing jobs abroad unless they pay back Hanjin for the cost of their training.
A number of Hanjin workers have been put in the so-called “watch list” of both Hanjin and POEA to prevent them from going abroad.
Lacbain quoted a certain J.Y. Jung, human resources manager of a Hanjin contractor, as saying that the watch list covers workers who were fired for “habitual absence without leave” but still owed the company some contractual obligations.
Jung told Lacbain that workers normally have a five-year contract with Hanjin, including some who were sent to Korea for three-month training.
He said the company spent P254,000 for every worker trained abroad, and P150,000 for those locally trained.
He also said that shipyard workers are highly paid, with the lowest monthly salary in the range of P9,000.
Lacbain also quoted Jung as saying that terminated workers would remain in the watch list unless they pay back Hanjin the corresponding cost of their training.
Lacbain, however, said preventing former Hanjin workers from seeking overseas employment violates their constitutional rights, adding that the POEA should promote the interest of Filipino workers.
While Hanjin also has a right to protect its interests, Lacbain said it could file formal complaints before the proper agencies instead of barring its former workers from gainful employment in other countries.
During a recent session of the Zambales provincial board, POEA’s Naval insisted that his agency’s MOA with Hanjin “is no longer in effect.”
But Naval said any worker could still land in the POEA watch list if his employer has worked for a warrant of arrest for him or if he has not complied with the government’s travel requirements.
Lacbain said he is looking into reports that some Hanjin workers in the watch list resigned from Hanjin due to alleged unfair labor practices. -Ding Cervantes The Philippine Star