The January 2019 collapse of the giant Hanjin shipbuilding facility in Subic, Zambales has precipitated a mad scramble for solutions to the crisis. The government frantically scours for new investors and 5 Philippine banks await to retrieve $412 million in unpaid loans.
Meanwhile, the plight of the 30,000 displaced Hanjin workers has been all but neglected. They have endured 13 years of precarious contractualized work, 40 work-related deaths and 15,000 injuries, unfair labor practices (including union-busting), poor health services and maltreatment at the hands of Korean superiors. On top of the massive job losses, the workers’ immediate demands for proper retrenchment benefits remain unfulfilled.
There is, however, an alternative solution that puts the workers at the forefront of the current impasse – that of workers’ control, also known as “workers’ recuperation.” Worker-recuperated firms are business enterprises that have failed or gone bankrupt “and put into operation once again by their workers under self-management.”
Workers’ control of abandoned companies has taken place since the start of the 20th century in different parts of the globe but waned in the 1970s with the ascendancy of the anti-labor neo-liberal policies of the Thatcher and Reagan administrations. However, in the wake of successive crises beginning with the Asian financial crunch of 1997-1998 and culminating in the global economic meltdown of 2007-2008, workers’ recuperation has seen a resurgence.
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