Garnishment is the legal term relating to the collection of a monetary judgement on behalf of a claimant from a defendant. In the Philippines, this routinely occurs before the case has concluded and is central our Members' many concerns relating to crew claims in this jurisdiction. The International Group Personal Injury Sub-Committee's - Philippine Working Group (on which our Tony Nicholson sits), has been monitoring the prejudice caused to owners & employers for a number of years, in addition to seeking to educate all interested stakeholders about the need for an equitable solution, to this continuing problem.
Tony Nicholson of London Syndicate 3 is the primary contact on issues relating to Philippine employment laws and on the issue of 'garnishment' in particular.
The UK Club is acutely aware of Members' concerns in relation to various problems faced when handling Filipino crew claims, particularly if a Writ / Summons is pursued before the NLRC or NCMB. At the heart of these concerns, is the need for a fair / equitable legal system, and as importantly, changes in the system which addresses the alarmingly increase in the number of Claimant lawyers being attracted to "handle" seafarers claims, Claimant lawyers that have diverse backgrounds, and in some instances, concerning links, both directly and indirectly, with the Labor Court.
The UK Club, amongst others, have ensured these concerns are raised and dealt with at International Group level, giving consideration to the significant number of Filipino seafarers deployed across the world fleet, every year.
At the heart of the problems faced by employers, which also attracts an increasing number of Claimant lawyers to "handle" seafarers claims, or those of their next of kin, is the issue of "Garnishment", namely the enforcement of the NLRC / NCMB's decisions, notwithstanding the ability to elevate the case to the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court thereafter.
The UK Club issued a series of 3 LP Bulletins in 2009, which included an overview of "Garnishment". At that time, the International Group recognised that significant and unquantifiable damage was being caused to our Members, through Garnishment, with the likelihood that the situation would deteriorate significantly going forward. For that reason, the IG started to closely monitor the situation, in addition to meeting with key stakeholders in Manila, on a regular basis. This is also an issue which has been communicated to various Shipowner Representative Bodies and we are particularly grateful for the support the IG has received from IMEC (International Maritime Employers' Council).
As a consequence, the IG submitted a Position Paper to the NLRC in October 2013.
We are also grateful to IMEC, with whom we have liaised closely on this issue for some time, for the formal Endorsement they provided shortly thereafter, which has been forwarded to the NLRC and the DOLE (Department of Labor & Employment).
The response of the NLRC in its En Banc Resolution No12-13 was to advise that they lacked the jurisdictional authority to adopt escrow arrangements in these cases pending the full resolution of a case.
Since receiving the NLRC En Banc Resolution, the IG has written to the Secretary of Labor and Employment, Rosalinda Baldoz and Undersecretary, Danilo Cruz, to encourage the DOLE to work with Shipowners, the NLRC, and Unions, amongst others, to find the equitable solution desired, by strengthening the integrity and fairness in the system and eliminating the perception of corruption, as part of the on-going reform on labor arbitration and adjudication.
The UK Club and IG will continue to closely monitor this situation and advocate the changes needed, which have significant support across the industry as a whole. However, it is employers and Shipowner Representative Bodies that have the strongest voice locally, in driving though the changes needed. For this reason, the IG has recently communicated these developments to various Shipowner Representative Bodies, including the JSA, NSA, HKSOA and the Union of Greek Shipowners, amongst others.