Acadiana Business

Lawsuit: Grand Isle Shipyard ran 'labor camp' for foreign workers

by Leslie Turk

The company whose workers were on board the platform that exploded Friday has been dogged for the past year by a federal lawsuit filed by 20 former Filipino workers claiming a litany of labor violations.

The Times-Picayune reported Wednesday that Grand Isle Shipyard Inc., the company whose workers were aboard the West Delta Block 32 platform Friday when it exploded and killed one worker, left one missing and injured 11 others, is accused of running a "labor camp" for foreign workers. The allegations surfaced in a class action federal lawsuit filed about a year ago by former workers from the Philippines.

According to the story, 20 former Filipino employees claim they were required to pay between $2,000 and $3,500 a month to live in 10-by-10-foot rooms, six to a room - some in a work barge in Lafitte and others in a Galliano bunkhouse that had been converted from a bowling alley.

The T-P noted that the allegations surfaced as the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which regulates the oil and gas industry, began its investigation into Grand Isle Shipyard and Black Elk Energy, the Houston-based owner of the platform.

The independent federal Chemical Safety Board announced it also was considering an investigation into the accident and served two subpoenas on Black Elk on Monday. ...

The lawsuit alleges that the workers were required to sign two different contracts, containing differing pay rates, with the contract containing higher wages complying with federal law filed with the U.S. Embassy in Manila, and a second contract, with lower wages, filed with the companies.

"Plaintiffs executed the contracts because they believed that, in order to work in the United States, they had no choice," according to the suit. "Further, they were deceived and/or otherwise fraudulently induced to sign the contracts with the promise that (Grand Isle Shipyard) would sponsor them for E-2 visas, making them eligible for permanent resident status."

Read the full story here.

Read here for more on the workers' living conditions.