By William Casis i FilAm Star Correspondent
ACTS-OFW Rep. Aniceto Bertiz III said the Department of Labor and Employment should help the displaced Hanjin shipyard workers, who were among those hurt by temporary US visa ban, to find new jobs in New Zealand.
“There is considerable demand for Filipino construction labor in New Zealand now, and we are hoping that some of the dislocated Hanjin workers can be deployed there,” he said.
He said Filipino construction workers in New Zealand on average get paid 10 times the PHP 537 daily minimum wage in Metro Manila, according to Bertiz.
Filipino workers in New Zealand sent home a record $218.6 million (PHP 11.4 billion) in cash in the first 11 months of 2018, up 81.5 percent from $120.4 million (PHP 6.3 billion) in the same period in 2017, largely on account of the increased hiring of construction labor, Bertiz said.
Bertiz meanwhile acknowledged that Filipino welders rendered jobless by the collapse of Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Philippines Inc. were among those adversely affected by America’s temporary ban on the issuance of new H-2A and H-2B visas.
“We understand that hundreds of Hanjin workers retrenched as early as December were already being enlisted for a fuel pipeline project in Houston, Texas. However, owing to the ban, these recruits are now in limbo,” Bertiz said.
Foreign Affairs Sec. Teodoro Locsin blamed the Philippine Labor attaché in Washington for inadvertently setting off the ban.
Manila’s Labor attaché had complained to the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) about the substandard working and living conditions of Filipino students performing on-the-job training (OJT) work at hotels across America.
This prompted the DHS to cite the hazard of human trafficking and declare that it would stop issuing new H-2A and H-2B visas to Filipinos from Jan. 19, 2019 to Jan. 18, 2020.
The DHS also pointed out that almost 40 percent of H-2B visa holders from the Philippines overstayed their welcome.
Bertiz for his part referred to the Trump administration’s harsh anti-migrant labor policy as “the underlying reason for the temporary ban.”
The H-2B visa program allows American employers to bring foreigners to the United States to fill non-farm jobs such as those in the restaurants and bars, hotels and motels, resorts and theme parks, cruise ships, construction, maintenance, janitorial services, ski resorts, landscaping, golf courses, warehouses and retail stores.
H-2A visas are temporary entry permits given to foreigners for seasonal, or temporary, farm jobs.
Some 10,800 Filipinos were laid off when Hanjin declared bankruptcy on January 8 and closed down its shipyard in Subic Bay, Zambales.
The world’s fourth-largest shipyard at its peak employed up to 21,000 Filipinos.