January 29, 2011
The labor group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) called on the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to deputize union presidents and officers as labor inspectors in order to strengthen the enforcement of labor standards and safety rules. The recommendation came in response to preliminary reports that Eton and its contractors at the construction site in Greenbelt, Makati were guilty of numerous violations from underpayment of wages to non-remittance of SSS deductions aside from unsafe working conditions.
Judy Ann Miranda, PM secretary-general, said that “From 240 labor inspectors, the DOLE now just has some 190 to cover around 800,000 establishments nationwide. This number can easily be increased several fold by deputizing union officers as labor inspectors. Even if just 10% of the 17,000 local union presidents are accredited, this is about 10 times the present number of inspectors.”
PM insists that by deputizing labor leaders, the number of inspections can be multiplied overnight, enforcement can be strengthened immediately, and workers lives and limbs can be saved as a result.
The group is also critical of the DOLE’s “Labor Standards Enforcement Framework” which allows establishments with more than 200 workers to undergo voluntary self-assessment. PM reveals that under the self-assessment program, the number of establishments inspected plummeted from 26,000 when it started in 2004 to just 6,000 last year.
Miranda likened the situation to “The shepherd asked the wolf to tend the sheep and as a result the sheep are eaten alive.”
She reiterated the call that justice must be served the ten construction workers who died at the Eton site. “Aside from the responsibility of the principal employer Eton and its subcontractors to the laborers who were killed, the government must make policy changes regarding enforcement of labor standards and occupational health and safety so that the workers have not died in vain,” she stated.
The group explained that DOLE already allows local government units to undertake technical inspections in order to complement its efforts and so there is no reason not to mobilize workers groups in labor enforcement. “All the DOLE has to do is train union president and officers in the labor inspection and enforcement process and then accredit them appropriately,” Miranda added.