Friday, March 13, 2009

400 shipyard workers' jobs on the line

Ship repair firm plans to cut jobs

By Cris Evert Lato - Cebu Daily News
About 400 workers of a ship repair company in Lapu-Lapu City are in danger of losing their jobs as the management decides to focus resources on shipbuilding.

Keppel Cebu Shipyard Inc. president David Loh said in a memorandum to the workers that the company has to reduce its workforce due to continuing market decline.

The company offered an early retirement program for the workers on a voluntary basis. The program could be availed from March 2 to March 14.

But Roger Igot, president of the Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Baradero (Keppel Shipyard)-Nation Federation of Labor, said yesterday that the company is “using the global crisis as an alibi to destroy the union and replace regular jobs with contractual workers.”

“The real issue is that management wants to squeeze more profit by making labor costs cheaper. Management pays a regular Keppel worker much higher wages and benefits compared to a contractual laborer who makes do with below minimum wages and no benefits,” said Igot.

Igot and about 280 union members stayed inside the shipyard facilities overnight last Tuesday to protest the firm’s work reduction plans.

In a statement sent to , Keppel Cebu said the company's decision to focus on shipbuilding was reached in mid-2008 due to declining domestic repair demand.

Keppel Cebu said substantial investments were made to enhance its shipbuilding facilities. Facility upgrade is expected to be completed within the year which will enable the company “to build specialized ships for both the local and international markets.”

“As certain specialized trades and skills in ship repair are no longer needed for shipbuilding, the compnay needs to rationalize its workforce,” said Keppel Cebu in the statement.

Igot however said the shipyard management told them during their collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiations in June 2008 that more workers will be hired as Keppel turns to shipbuilding.

Igot said they do not believe that the company is losing.

He cited the ongoing shipyard development project worth P300 million and the incentive bonus released last February as proof that the company is still earning.

Jennifer Macairan, corporate affairs manager of Keppel Cebu Shipyard Inc., denied accusations that the company is using the crisis as an excuse to remove workers.

Macairan said that the firm has been affected with the global economic crisis.

She said that the company is practicing job rotation and energy conservation as cost cutting measures.

She said the early retirement program offered by the company was triggered by the financial crisis.

Keppel Cebu, formerly the Cebu Shipyard, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Keppel Philippines Marine Inc. (KPMI). It is also a member of the Keppel Group of Singapore, an international marine and offshore services. /With correspondent Jully Venus Cuizon.

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