Manila Harbour Centre workers led by Samahang Manggagawa sa Harbour Centre trooped to Department of Labor and Employment National Capital Region’s (DOLE-NCR) Office in Manila on March 14 to reiterate their demand that they be regularized. The picket protest was in time for a hearing with manpower agency Grasials Corp. on the dock workers’ complaints on labor and occupational safety standards, and contractualization.

“Kaming mga manggagawa ay nagtatrabaho ng ‘core job’ at esensyal ang aming trabaho rito para tumakbo ang industriya sa Harbour Centre (Our job as workers is a ‘core job’ and our jobs are essential for the industry in Harbour Centre),” said Eldefonso Bello, President of Samahang Manggagawa sa Harbour Centre.

Bello added that DOLE has identified Grasials Corp. as an illegal manpower agency because it is not registered with the labor department, which the workers thought is a heavier reason for the Harbour Centre Port Terminal, Inc. to hire them directly. He also said that all piers in Manila have regular workers with the same work as theirs except for Harbour Centre.

Bello assailed the manpower agency’s treatment to its workers.

Eldefonso Bello, President of Samahang Manggagawa sa Harbour Centre assailed their employer Grasials Corp. for exploiting its workers. (Manila Today photo)

“Gusto naming ipaalam sa DOLE ang ginagawang pagsasamantala at matagal na panahon ng kanilang (agency) panloloko sa amin (We want to inform DOLE of the long-time exploitation and deception by the agency of us workers),” said Bello in his speech during the protest in front of DOLE-NCR.

He added that the agency started to cut down workers in a team of workers unloading cargo per ship.

“Mula sa anim na manggagawa o ginawang tatlo na lang ang magtatrabaho sa isang barko. Pinipiga nila kami. Ang interes lang nila ang inaalala nila pero paano ang mga katawan namin? (From six workers, the agency insisted that only tree workers do the job in each cargo ship. They bleed us dry. They are only thinking about their interests, but how about our bodies?)” Bello complained.

Read: ‘Di makataong kundisyon ng mga manggagawang kontraktwal

In January, Harbour Centre workers filed a complaint in DOLE against Grasials Corporation. The manpower agency was required by DOLE to submit several documents to give them a chance to answer the workers’ complaints and DOLE’s findings on its initial assessment in order to their recommended action on the workers’ complaints. DOLE representatives made an on-site inspection on January 13 and 17.

Underpayment of wages, overtime pay and 13th month pay, delayed salary, no payslip, no meal breaks, non-remittance of SSS, PhilHealth and Pag-ibig, non-provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), no fire safety inspection certificate, no safety and health committee no trained safety officer, and no emergency medicine are among DOLE’s findings on General Labor Standards (GLS) and Occupational Safety and Health Standards (OSHS) based on their premises inspection and interview with workers.

However, on the issue of security of tenure or contractualization, another hearing needs to be set.

Grasials have already twice requested an extension on their deadline to comply to the submission of required documents. They are given until March 30, 2017 to comply.

On the other hand, workers insisted that the DOLE let the workers face Grasials management to let other workers air their sentiments. DOLE’s Nicandro Estrella who handles the GLS and OSHS case agreed to the workers’ demand.

During the meeting, Estrella apologized to the workers’ representatives for the delay as he said they need to go through the process.

During the meeting between Grasials Corp. and Harbour Centre workers facilitated by DOLE on March 14, 2017 at DOLE-NCR. The manpower agency submitted documents required by DOLE in response to the workers’ complaint. (Manila Today photo)

Grasials Corp. representative Beth Concepcion who was present during the meeting/hearing refused to give any comment.

“Huwag tayong umasa sa mga hearing na ’to, bagkus ay umasa tayo sa pagkakaisa nating mga manggagawa at lalo pang palakasin ang ating hanay para makamit ang ating inaasam na regularisasyon (We should not rely on these hearings, rather we should rely on our unity and further strengthen our ranks to fight for regularization),” said Bello addressing his co-workers after the meeting.