Friday, March 13, 2009

Keppel Cebu rationalizing work force to focus on shipbuilding; workers holed up in shipyard

CEBU CITY — Keppel Cebu Shipyard, Inc. is streamlining its work force as part of its new thrust to focus on shipbuilding and divert all ship repair activities to its shipyards in Batangas and Subic, Zambales.

The job rotation scheme, which started this week, and the voluntary reduction program offered to workers are expected to cut the Cebu shipyard’s 414-strong work force by 70%, union President Roger Igot said.

To protect their jobs, Mr. Igot and other members of the Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Baradero at Keppel Cebu have been holed up inside the shipyard in Mactan since Tuesday night.

More union members who reported for work yesterday were also expected to stay inside the compound even after their three-day shift ends.

Under the job rotation scheme, workers were divided and given three-day shifts.

"The management had told us that if we don’t resign voluntarily, our positions will be declared redundant. Any day now, we expect that announcement so we’re not going to leave the shipyard to protect our jobs," Mr. Igot said.

Most of the union’s 279 members were expected to join the group and will stay inside the shipyard, he added.

In a statement, Keppel Cebu said it was rationalizing its work force in preparation for shipbuilding, a thrust announced in the middle of last year because of declining domestic repair demand.

The Keppel Cebu shipyard is being upgraded to prepare it for shipbuilding.

"As certain specialized trades and skills in ship repair are no longer needed for shipbuilding, the company intends to rationalize its work force," the company said.

"Discussions were held with its workers’ union to offer a comprehensive separation package for the affected employees," it added.

Displaced workers will be given the opportunity to join other shipyards under Keppel Philippines Marine, Inc. or Keppel Offshore & Marine.

The workers, however, have not bought the management’s explanation about declining demand for ship repair.

Mr. Igot said there had been ship repair jobs diverted to the Batangas shipyard in January.

Presently, only one ship is drydocked at the Mactan shipyard, which normally can accommodate up to five vessels.

The workers also do not believe that the company is bleeding financially due to the global economic crisis. Mr. Igot said the management had announced the release of their profit-sharing bonuses, an average of P31,000 per employee, on Friday. Their incentive bonuses were also released just recently.

"We have never run out of jobs at the yard. Last year, there was always a ship to work on. We don’t believe there are redundant jobs here," Mr. Igot added.

He accused the management of union busting and of trying to replace regular workers with contractual workers who are paid less.

Regular employees are paid an average of P1,100 daily, including benefits, while contractual workers receive only the daily minimum wage of P250, or less, he added. — Marites S. Villamor - Business World

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