MANILA, March 8, 2011â€”Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino filed a bill, which bans self-assessment on companies, saying that it endangers laborers more.
House Bill 4332 seeks the strict reinforcement of labor health and safety standards in workplaces and strengthening the Labor Departmentâ€™s visitorial powers in order to prevent more fatalities at workplaces, just like what happened in Eton Residences in Makati. It was on January 23, when 10 workers were killed in a freak accident, involving a gondola (a scaffolding-like lift), at Lucio Tan-owned Eton Condominium, the said city.
Palatino blames the issuance of Department Order 57-04 by former Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas, that allows self-assessment, regarding labor safety on companies with 200 or more employees.
â€œDO 57-04 has made almost irrelevant the government’s power of ensuring compliance with labor standards, especially with those regarding occupational safety and health in workplaces. It has effectively made these standards voluntary instead of mandatory,â€ said the lawmaker in a statement, adding that the said policyâ€™s â€œabsurdâ€ as it â€œeffectively permits companies to forgo workers rights and welfare since the policy cancels the jurisdiction of DOLE over them.â€
Meanwhile, the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (Eiler), Inc. said that the government should ban multiple subcontracting as it aggravates the already worse condition of laborers working on highly hazardous works, such as construction sites.
Eiler executive director Anna Leah Escresa explains that multiple subcontracting being employed by big construction conglomerates such as Eton, has distorted the employee-employer relationship, making accountability on the tragedy hard to trace.
â€œWhat we have seen in Eton are layers of subcontracting which created an impunity cloak for contractors and the developer and which made workers more vulnerable to injustice. And yet DOLE has not acted to squarely address the practice despite the tragedyâ€¦ It is simply unjust to tolerate highly abusive scheme. DOLE should scrap multiple subcontracting schemes,â€ Escresa said.
Escresa also asked for the review and revocation of the existing DOLE orders or advisories that tolerate this wily practice of companies to skirt accountability and cheapen labor cost.
The labor expert also revealed that the construction workers in Eton Residences continue to receive â€œslave wagesâ€ as they continue to earn only P260 a day on an average. This is way below the current P404 minimum wage in the National Capital Region.
â€œThey are being paid low, without SSS, without any benefits, and much more they are exposed to very hazardous workplace with companies violating safety guidelines. It is clear that the companies and subcontracting firms are the ones benefitting from this multiple subcontracting chain practice in the construction industry,â€ she said.
She also said Eton and its subcontractors should be charged for the non-payment of minimum wage according to existing laws. (Noel Sales Barcelona)