By Andrea Lim
The Aquino administration continues to show its apathetic stance towards the plight of workers with its failure to uphold strict health and safety standards in workplaces around the country.
The immediate approval of a proposed bill to protect Filipino workers’ health and safety is also being pushed down the bottom of Malacañang’s priority list.
According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), a worker dies every 15 seconds because of work-related injuries and accidents, with the most recent untoward incident resulting in the death of eight female workers in early June of this year.
National labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) slammed the Aquino administration for its evident neglect in the issue of workers’ health and safety.
KMU vice-chair for women’s affairs Nenita Gonzaga says that the Aquino government’s “widespread violations of workers’ rights and rabid defense of capitalist profiteering have emboldened capitalists to take workers’ lives for granted.”
“Worse, this government has failed to attain justice for workers who were killed at the workplace,” Gonzaga added.
Last June 11, KMU picketed the House of Representatives to show support for a bill seeking to criminalize violations of occupational health and safety standards.
The Workers’ SHIELD (Safety and Health Inspection and Employers’ Liability Decree), which was filed by Gabriela Women’s Party Representatives Emmi de Jesus and Luz Ilagan, seeks to impose heavy sentences on employers who violate workplace health and safety standards.
It also aims to do away with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)’s policy of allowing companies with more than 200 employees to carry out ‘self-inspection’ when it comes to health and safety standards in the workplace, compelling the agency to carry out the inspection by itself.
KMU secretary-general Roger Soluta supports the proposed bill, stating that existing laws and policies “cheapen workers’ lives and deny dignity to workers.”
The law seeks to amend Title I, Book IV of the Labor Code of the Philippines as amended by Presidential Decree 442 and introduce “industrial homicide” to Philippine laws.
Workers’ SHIELD states that should a violation of occupational health and safety standards result in the death of a worker, the employer shall pay a fine of more than P75,000 for each day that the violation was committed and will be sent to prison for not less than six years and not more than 12 years.
The bill seeks to junk DOLE Order No. 57-04 Series of 2004 which legalizes “self assessment” of “establishments with at least 200 workers” and “shall also apply to unionized establishments with Certified Collective Bargaining Agreement regardless of the number of workers.”
The bill entails that the government should have a pro-active role in upholding occupational health and safety standards, and should continuously and closely monitor observance of the said standards and heavily punish employers who deviate from them.
Among workers who are victims of neglect under the Aquino administration are workers from Eton Towers (2010, 10 dead), Keppel (2011, 5 dead), Ali Mall (2012, 4 dead), Novo (2012, 17 dead) and SPC Malaya Power Corporation (2013, 5 dead).