Covering Louisiana

Nov 21, 2012 5:42 PM by Tonya LaCoste

Company involved in platform explosion sued for employee trafficking

Grand Isle Shipyard, the company whose workers were aboard the platform that exploded Friday, is accused of trafficking Filipino workers. One worker, 42-year-old Elroy Corporal, was killed. Another, Jerome Malagapo, is still missing. Eleven others were injured when the West Delta Block 32 platform, located about 25 miles southeast of Grand Isle, exploded. Just more than a year ago, former Filipino workers filed a class-action lawsuit against GIS and four other companies, citing, among other claims, inadequate compensation, housing discrimination, and inadequate and exorbitant housing and food arrangements.

The workers claim they were assigned to a Galliano bunk house, and four people were assigned to one room. Each employee was charged $3,200 a month even if they didn't stay there, and the housing fee was automatically deducted from their paychecks. The lawsuit further alleges the workers were relocated to Lafitte, where they were assigned to a barge. They claim six workers lived in a 10 x 10 room, slept on racks, and were charged $2,000.00 to $3,000.00 per month, based on their pay.

Before the workers were hired, they were told housing and food would be provided, but the lawsuit states they had to buy their own food. In terms of pay, they were supposed to be paid $16.25 for regular time, and $24.37 an hour for overtime. According to the lawsuit, workers "oftentimes worked seven days a week, 10-12 hours per day, but the compensation received did not equal the hours worked. Plaintiffs were paid a little as $5.50 per hour, woefully short of the agreed upon amount." The lawsuit claims workers were threatened to be deported when they questioned their pay, and they were told they'd be added to a blacklist to bar them from future employment.

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