Saturday, May 10, 2014

In wake of Hanjin worker death: Union officers urged to be deputized as labor inspectors

Press Release
May 10, 2014

In response to a report that a Hanjin contractor has been punished for the death of another worker at the shipyard last May 2, 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 DOLE in Central Luzon has issued a cease and desist order to Finback Corp. due to the accidental death of its employee, Ryan Gacus.

Renato Magtubo, PM national chair, reiterated the call that justice must be served the 37 workers who have died at the Hanjin shipyard. “Stopping the operation of Finback is just a first step. We will monitor what steps DOLE will do next to serve justice to Gacus. Aside from the responsibility of the principal employer Hanjin and its subcontractors to the laborers who have been killed at the shipyard-cum-graveyard, the government must make policy changes regarding enforcement of labor standards and occupational health and safety so that workers have not died in vain,” he stated.

Magtubo said that “The DOLE just has some 200 inspectors to cover around 800,000 establishments nationwide, thus in 2013 just around 40,000 enterprises were subjected to inspections, self-assessments and visits. The numbers 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 explained that DOLE already allows local government units to undertake technical safety 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,” Magtubo added.

In the DOLE’s Labor Standards Enforcement Framework, unions with collective bargaining agreements are given a role in self-assessment for their enterprises. “If unions play a responsibility in ensuring labor standards and occupational safety in their own workplaces, it does not take a leap of logic to allow them a task in inspecting other enterprises,” Magtubo argued.

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