Port Workers Fight for Job Security Despite North Harbor Privatization


Manila – After thousands of North Harbor workers and residents protested in Mendiola last Sept. 15, glowing promises of abundant jobs in soon to become privately-run North Harbor came out in ads and news in the papers. But instead of feeling reassured, the current North Harbor employed workers felt “slandered” and even more threatened that they might lose their jobs and livelihood.

“We read with disgust a paid advertisement by the so-called Alyansa para sa Pagbabago at Modernisasyon ng North Harbor (Alliance for Change and Modernization in North Harbor) or APMNH,” said Jake Azores, president of Alliance of Port/Transport Workers and Porters–North Harbor (APTWP). The paid ad he was referring to began with “So the public may know the lies and the truth.”

Since they intensified their protests in defense of their job security amidst the privatization of North Harbor, the workers’ group said they have noted an upswing in the “media offensive favoring the joint venture of Harbor Centre and Metro Pacific Investment Corp. (MPIC), the winning bidder in this privatization deal,” said Azores, who is also president of United Dockhandlers, Inc., a union affiliated with the National Federation of Workers Union-Kilusang Mayo Uno (UDI-NFWU-KMU).

According to Azores, contrary to the lies being peddled by this media blitz that there would be no retrenchments and that more jobs would be made available when the privatization takes place, they have reasons to feel anxious about massive jobs losses, pay cuts and union busting once the winning bidder takes over. He pointed to the situation of workers at South Harbor, where Harbor Center, one half of the joint venture set to take over North Harbor, already operates.

“APMNH ignores the record of Harbor Centre, which is a “Harbor of Contractualization,” said Azores. According to a KMU report, contractual workers under Harbor Centre receive low pay for difficult work; they are prevented from forming or joining unions. “There are no workers’ unions in Harbor Centre, as its management has sabotaged all attempts by workers to set up unions. There are also reported cases of Harbor Centre’s non-payment of SSS benefits, as it pushes the agencies to pay for its workers’ SSS benefits.”

Experiences of Filipino workers with privatization have been rife with “massacre of jobs,” said Lito Ustarez, vice-chair of KMU. Privatization, from experience, has meant the end of security of tenure and loss of benefits for workers, he said.

Revise the Privatization’s Terms of Reference

North Harbor workers may not be laid off immediately after the private sector’s takeover, said Azores. But he pointed out the Terms of Reference in the bidding process that says the job security of North Harbor workers will be recognized only for two years after the awarding of the contract to the winning bidder.

As such, Azores asserted that workers could indeed lose their jobs once “modernization” kicks in. He criticized the APMNH for trying to “deceive North Harbor workers, residents of nearby communities and the Filipino people.”

Considering the huge expenses of placing big ads, the Alliance of Port/Transport Workers and Porters –North Harbor (APTWP) believes the Harbor Centre and MPIC are behind this.

“But if it really wants to assure North Harbor workers that there won’t be layoffs due to the privatization, it doesn’t have to waste much money for this propaganda offensive. All it has to do is change the Terms of Reference and remove the limit to the tenure of North Harbor workers once the contract is awarded to the winning bidder,” the alliance said.

As long as the terms of reference limits the workers’ tenure, the alliance vows to continue with bigger protests, such as the bigger protest action they have planned for September 23.(Bulatlat.com)

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