Friday, November 14, 2008

A Pinoy Story in this and Reporting from Australia

Just as Austal (parent company of the maker of Hawaii Superferry) prepares for a major top-dollar government contract in the U.S. for which it will need 500 more workers, the following article (bottom) appears on a Filipino news website:

Austal close to securing JHSV contract WA Business News - Northbridge, Western Australia
Austal is on the verge of receiving confirmation from the United States Navy that the Henderson-based ship builder has been successful in winning...

Home-grown shipbuilder wins international acclaim The West Australian - Perth, Western Australia Henderson shipbuilder Austal received a major boost to its international expansion plans after a high-ranking US Senator praised the decision of the US Navy...

75 Filipinos Laid Off In Australia Pacific News Center - USA The company, Austal, one of the biggest ship builders in the world, downsizes in Australia. The company is giving the laid off Filipino workers 28 days to look for news jobs, or they will be sent home. Today's layoffs come a day after the British Company Voltcom laid off 100 Filipino workers in England...

Mass termination of OFWS in Australia brings tears before Christmas ABS CBN News - Philippines
By Gigi Grande, ABS-CBN News 11/13/2008 2:05 PM Seventy five Filipino workers in Western Australia have lost their jobs at Austal...[see below]

For Filipinos abroad, a Pinoy Story in all of this:
"Mass layoff of OFWs in Australia brings tears before X'mas"
By Gigi Grande, ABS-CBN News 11/13/2008

"Seventy-five Filipino workers in Western Australia have lost their jobs at Austal, one of the biggest ship builders in the world.

Thirty Australians and two Croatians also got the chop.

Austal chief executive officer Bob Browning told ABS-CBN the global recession and the credit crunch are to blame. He says it caused “commercial customers to slow down” on the acquisition of new vessels. As a result, employees engaged in the early stages of vessel production, such as fabricators and welders, were left without assignments. “Majority of our Filipino workers are employed in this area,” Browning explained.

Sorry, mate

Employees knew something was amiss when managers holed themselves up in the conference room on October 22. The following day, dozens of employees were called to the manager’s office in succession.

Welder Edilberto Lumanog recalls how his supervisor gave him a hand shake, a letter, and said “Sorry, mate.” The supervisor explained it was top management’s decision to downsize.

Lumanog sat down and the room began to spin. “Parang nawala ako sa sarili, kasi sa trabaho, masipag ka at saka nag-tyaga ka, bigla namang dumating yung sinabing kasali ka sa ganyan (I felt like I was not myself. In work, you're industrious and persevering. Then this comes.),” recalled Lumanog.

Tearful men

Lumanog was devastated. A devoted father, it pained him to move to Australia eight months ago. He missed his children. But he accepted the job at Austal in the hope of providing his family a better life. ” Masakit talaga. Sa Pinas pito ang anak ko. Biro mo apat ang sinusuportahan ng gatas (It pains me. I have 7 children in the Philippines. You wouldn't believe this but four of them are still on milk,) ” he said as he tried to hold back tears. “Dapat yung anak ko papasok sa college ngayon. Sabi ng anak ko, hindi na sya maka pasok sa college kasi wala na akong trabaho. Sabi ko, hahanap ako ulit ng trabaho, kahit anong trabaho. (One of my children is supposed to go to college. He said that he's no longer going to school because I don't have a job. I told him, I'll look for work, any kind of work.)”

For Johnnie Almento, the one thing more painful than losing his job was hearing his wife weep on the phone. “Tinawagan ko asawa ko. Umiyak sya, iyak ng iyak. Sabi ko huag kang umiyak, wala naman tayong magagawa (I called up my wife. She cried. I told her, we can't do anything) ” the father of five recalled.

The Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship gave Filipino workers 28 days to find new employers, or return to the Philippines. Almento, an experienced welder, was optimistic and spent the next few days looking for a job. But after a week, he began to lose hope. He couldn’t sleep at night. He wanted to go home. “Tumawag yung panganay ko. Sabi nya, hanap ka muna, Pa, para matuloy kaming mag-aral. Yun ang masakit eh. Sabi ko, sige maghahanap ako. Mag-dasal din kayo (My eldest called, asked me to look for work so that they could go to school. That's painful. I told them to pray).”

Prayers answered

Days later, Almento believes prayers were answered as he found another job. Lumanog, too, found employment. But they cannot begin working and therefore won’t receive their salaries until new work permits are issued.

In the meantime, meager savings will go towards costly living expenses such as food, utilities and rent. Workers were given a severance package based on length of service, but Lumanog said this was only equivalent to one week’s pay.

But Fabricator Raniel Cadiles is packing his bags. After two weeks of job hunting, he has decided to throw in the towel. Australian employers turned him down because he lacked experience. Like many overseas Filipino workers, he’ll be back in the Philippines soon, but celebrating Christmas is farthest from his mind. “Parang na-blanko ako. Ang laki laki ng kumpanya tapos ganito ang nangyari. Isa o dalawang araw, wala akong imik sa kwarto, hindi ako lumabas, parang hindi ko matanggap (I feel blank. The company is so big, then this happens. For one or two days, I kept quiet, didn't go out of my room. I couldn't accept it.)”

Experienced, productive people

Only two years ago, Austal launched extensive recruitment efforts in the Philippines when advertising in Australia yielded few candidates. Australian unions and community groups criticized the move, but former Austal CEO John Rothwell stood by the decision. “There is an aluminum ship building industry in Cebu in the Philippines so the people we have sourced from there are experienced and able to come to Australia and be productive from day one,” Rothwell had told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 2006.

The recruitment efforts doubled the number of Filipinos employed at Austal’s Henderson plant by 2008, comprising roughly 10 percent of the workforce.

After the recent retrenchment, the number of Filipinos employed at Austal is back to 2006 levels. “Until the worldwide economy begins to recover, we will need to closely monitor our workforce requirements,” Browning said.

No further job cuts are expected."

You know, I have been told Austal-USA may have in the past used Mexican workers. I don't know why they couldn't use many of these Filipino welders in Alabama on work visas. They sound like they are pretty well skilled.

Aloha, Brad


Anonymous said...

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MauiBrad said...

Thanks JT,

Actually I just installed sitemeter on this blog yesterday, and by their google search terms a couple of hits in the past day on this blog were people in the Southeast looking for welding job opportunities. I also have had two or three hits from the Philippines on the post about the Filipinos laid off at Austal in Australia. So, people reading this blog might find your comment helpful.

BTW, I had no idea of the type of people and how many are reading this blog until the past 24 hours. It's an interesting global group of people. This blog is getting about 200 hits a day from people in Hawaii, Mobile at the harbor, Congress at, the Navy, military, protected addresses in Virginia and Maryland, almost all of the defense industry companies involved with this technology, in Beijing the "Ministry of Education," Australia, Spain, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Turkey, etc., but only 1 hit from Kauai. I had no idea.

Aloha, Brad