Indian Workers Allege Mistreatment At Work - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Indian Workers Allege Mistreatment At Work

Joseph Jacob's time at Signal International and in the United States is running out.  That's because he and 5 other Indian co-workers were fired Friday morning. Since he started work in November 2006, Jacob claim's he's faced unbearable conditions at Signal.

"I have never seen [anything] like this situation," Jacob says.

He's part of a H-2-B visa program that Signal started to alleviate the labor shortage's they've felt post-Katrina. Company officials tell us Joseph's termination and pending deportation are perfectly legal, based on I-N-S policy. Workers rights advocates say the visa program sets immigrants up for poor conditions.

"It does nothing but legalize slavery," Mississippi Rights Alliance representative Victoria Cintra says. 

The 280 Indian workers that gathered outside Signal's gates today say they've been treated unfairly. They allege they've been sleeping 24 to a room with only 2 bathrooms at the shipyard.

"The people, united will never be defeated," hundreds of Indian workers chanted outside the facilities.

Though some workers are protesting here at Signal International, President Dick Marler says he's got nothing to hide. In fact, the Department of Labor was just here for an inspection earlier this week.

"The Department conducted a full search, looked at all of our records, looked at our living conditions, sampled that we were paying the right wage, looked at the living conditions, and we passed with flying colors," Signal International President and CEO Dick Marler says.  

Marler also says the 6 workers were unskilled, and Signal will be forced to pay about 12,000 total to send them back to India. Jacob says he doesn't want to go home because he sacrificed it all to come here.

"All my property, my house, everything is at the bank. To come here," Jacob says.

Signal International Officials say they plan to continue participating in the H-2-B program with Indian workers. But in the future, they want to ensure that workers sent from overseas posses specific skills and are fluent in English.

By Keli Rabon

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