CLARK FREEPORT – The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) has informed Zambales government officials it has already scrapped its agreement with the Korean Hanjin ship building firm in Subic in barring its former workers from leaving the country for other jobs abroad.
This was what POEA chief legal counsel Josefino Naval told Zambales Vice Gov. Ramon Lacbain II and members of his provincial board amid complaints from former Hanjin workers that the agency had barred them from jobs abroad amid their unfinished 5-year contract with the Korean firm.
Lacbain has fought against the memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the POEA and Hanjin barring shipyard workers, who had either resigned or had been fired for various reasons, from landing other jobs abroad unless they pay back Hanjin for the cost of their trainings before they were hired.
Scores of such Hanjin workers were put in the so-called “watchlist” of both Hanjin and POEA to prevent them from going abroad.
Lacbain quoted one J.Y. Jung, human resources manager of a Hanjin contractor, as saying that the watchlist cover 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 a three-month skills training. He said the company spent P254,000 each for every worker trained abroad, and P150,000 for those locally trained.
He also said that shipyard workers are highly paid, with the lowest salary in the range of P9,000 a month.
Jung said terminated workers would remain in the watchlist unless they pay back Hanjin the corresponding cost of their training.
However, Lacbain said that preventing former Hanjin workers from employment abroad violated their constitutional rights, even as he lashed at the POEA which, he noted, should promote the interest of Filipino workers.
He said that while Hanjin also has rights to protest its interests, this could be done by filing formal complaints before the proper agencies instead of barring former workers from gainful employment in other countries.
During a recent session of the Zambales council, POEA’s Naval insisted that his agency’s MOA with Hanjin “is no longer in affect.”
But he said that any worker could still be in the watchlist of the POEA if the worker’s employer had caused a warrant of arrest against him or if the worker did not comply with travel requirements of the government.
Lacbain, however, said he is looking into reports that some Hanjin workers in the watchlist resigned from Hanjin due to unfair labor practices.
He cited the case of Joel Degosa who claimed he resigned after he was demoted from being a deputy foreman down to being a mere laborer while performing the job of his former rank.