Workers commemorate millions killed each year due to lack of occupation health safety

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Intramuros, Manila – Workers from various industries in Southern Tagalog lead by the Metal Workers Alliance of the Philippines flocked to the Office of the Secretary, Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) to express their growing discontent for the Aquino government’s neglect on Occupation Health Safety (OHS) in the country.

The workers staged a picket-protest in front of DoLE in solidarity with the International Workers’ Memorial Day commemorated around the world on April 28. The workers denounce both company owners and the Noynoy Aquino government for turning a blind eye to the plea of workers to improve the working conditions inside industrial factories and enclaves.

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), there are approximately 2.3 million workers from around the world who die because of accidents or diseases caught in their workplace. ILO estimates that in every 15 seconds, at least one worker dies – a clear manifestation of the lack of governing laws to protect the life of workers. In the Philippines alone on 2011, the Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics recorded 20,635 cases of occupational accidents from factories that employ 20 workers and more. Partylist groups such as Gabriela and Anakpawis have filed House Bo;; 4635 or the Worker’s Safety and Health Inspection and Employer’s Liability Decree (Worker’s SHIELD), but such bills remain ignored by majority of lawmakers who are stockholders of capitalists.

“We are fed up with Aquino’s Noynoying or inaction which shows that he has no real concern to the plight of the working class. We have been demanding better working conditions for decades but the Aquino government only rewarded us with more repressive labor policies like contractualization, labor flexibilization and low wages. If workers do not die of accidents because of a hazardous environment, we die of hunger and financial incapacity to access health services. It is no surprise then that workers look for jobs abroad and are then put to risk of being framed as drug mules such as what happened to Mary Jane Veloso,” Christopher  Oliquino, National Secretary General and Regional Coordinator, Metal Workers Alliance of the Philippines – Southern Tagalog (MWAP-ST).

According to Oliquino, as if adding literal “insult to injury”, the DoLE released Department Order 57-04, permitting factories that employ more than 200 workers and those that have unions to conduct “self-assessments”. This means that DoLE no longer has a responsibility in checking the company’s OHS. “Would we expect owners to report that they violate the rules of DoLE? Added to this is the fact that there are no grave punishments to those who violate safety standard,” he said. The lack of personal protective equipment, proper ventilation and temperature fit for a healthy workplace, are but some of the common violations that companies make. Oliquino stressed that metal industry workers are at a higher risk to injuries due to the machineries they operate coupled with constant heat that they are exposed to.

The said picket-protest is a build-up activity for the upcoming Labor Day protest on May 1. More workers in Southern Tagalog are expected to join during the big mobilization at Crossing, Calamba City on the said date. #

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