Pinoy workers in US shipyard cry exploitation

About 100 Filipino workers, citing exploitative working conditions, have joined a class action suit against GIS, a US company based in Louisiana, and a recruitment agency.

“From 17 workers, it’s now close to 100 and we’re hoping more workers will break their silence and come forward,” Julia Camagong, a regional representative for the US of the International Migrant Alliance, said.

An article datelined Los Angeles and published on the inquirer.net said the lawsuit stemmed from the explosion that rocked an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico last November 16, where three Filipino workers died and three others were wounded.

It added that Black Elk Energy, owner of the oil platform had subcontracted the workers through GIS.

Last year, former GIS workers filed a lawsuit at the US District Court in New Orleans alleging that recruiters hired by GIS paid them $5.50 an hour as against promises of food and housing on top of wages of between $16.25 and $24.37 per hour. They also said they were overworked and were threatened of deportation when they complained.

A national caravan supporting the workers was held this week, making its way from Miami, Chicago, New York, Washington, DC and New Jersey to New Orleans, Louisiana. It then made a stop at the Manila Village in Lafitte, New Orleans, where the first Filipino settlers in the US made their home after escaping from Manila-Acapulco galleon ships during the 1700s.

“Coming here is very symbolic,” Katrina Abarcar, co-ordinator of Katarungan (Justice), a Filipino group based in the East Coast, said. “The Filipinos who settled here were also victims of forced labor.”

She said the caravan was created so that its participants could conduct some sort of a fact-finding mission into the deplorable working conditions of Filipinos in US shipyards. She added that these workers were “trafficked and abused. We are supporting them as they fight for their dignity and rights.”

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