Friday, January 28, 2011

In wake of Eton construction accident: Labor group calls for labor enforcement reforms

Press Release
January 28, 2011

The militant labor group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) called for stronger labor enforcement and labor inspection reforms in response to the accident at the Eton construction yesterday that claimed the lives of 10 workers and injured one. “This is a workplace massacre that is worse than the Makati terrorist bus bombing. Heads must roll and justice must be served for the needless deaths of 10 workers,” insisted Renato Magtubo, PM chair.

PM lambasted employers for cutting corners in occupational safety in order to raise profits and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for the lax implementation of labor and safety standards. “While capitalists were scrimping on protection for workers and DOLE was sleeping on its job of enforcement, workers are dying in the workplace,” Magtubo elaborated.

He claimed that “Accidents are not acts of divine providence that can be dismissed as unavoidable. Instead accidents are the result of unsafe acts and therefore preventable by strict enforcement of occupational safety and health and labor standards.”

“Under the regime of the DOLE’s self-assessment program, the number of labor inspectors have shrunk from around 240 to less than 200 and the number of establishments inspected plummeted from 60,000 in 2003 to just 6,000 last year. Self-assessment means that the government is asking the wolf to guard the sheep. No wonder the sheep get slaughtered,” Magtubo criticized.

He recommended that “We propose that the DOLE deputize labor leaders as labor inspectors. In so doing the number of inspectors and inspections can be increase several fold overnight, enforcement can be strengthened immediately, and workers lives and limbs can be saved.”

Magtubo added that “DOLE must review Eton and its contractors for compliance not just with safety regulations but labor standards such as payment of minimum wages and benefits, observance of working hours and remittance of social security among others. Construction workers are among the most overworked yet underpaid of employees since they are generally unorganized.”

“The DOLE has again been caught sleeping on the job as in the case of the nurses charged by exorbitant on-the-job fees. This abusive practice could have been deterred if the DOLE had inspected hospitals and fined them appropriately,” Magtubo said.


Anonymous said...

Minsan pa nating nakita ang kawalan ng pagpapahalaga sa buhay ng pangkaraniwang manggagawa. Walang ingat na pangangasiwa.Kahabag habag na kalagayan na dapat sana"y binibigyang halaga.

tere's blog said...

A workplace accident while unintended and unexpected is an untoward event that causes injury or death of workers. But it does not happen just because it has to. Accidents are always preceded by either an unsafe act or an unsafe condition. In this case, I surmise both - unsafe act of workers hurrying to go on their lunch break thus overloading the gondola is one such act; unsafe condition of the gondola itself - metal and/or rope fatigue. But the bottom line is - workers and the organizations they work in do not have a safety culture, our government agencies are not different, for if we have a strong sense of value for safety and health of workers we would do anything and everything to implement our laws and standards. Lack of safety inspectors seems to be the constant excuse. But where is the political will to rationalize government and scrap redundant, overpaid positions to give room for more safety inspectors that are appropriately compensated so they are not tempted into corruption? Should organizations comply only because of fear of being inspected? Shouldn't organizations comply because it is the right thing to do and it is good business sense to take care of its workers that bring revenues to the company?

We toil at the academe to teach safety and health every semester, we go on air every week to inform workers of their rights to be safe and healthy while they labor yet, we have not saved these lives. Unfortunately, this will go on unless organizations look at safety and health as cheaper and accidents as costly, unless government does what it is suppose to do and not look the other way. But the academe is as an icon of constancy and we will be constant in our role to educate and inform until a safe and healthy culture in the workplace is ingrained and firms make workers number 1!

Tere V. Atienza
Professor, PUP
Senior Lecturer, UP SOLAIR
Asian Public Intellectual Fellow
Host, Buhay Manggagawa DZUP 1602