Davao NCCC Mall
fire is proof of zero enforcement and compliance to labor laws
December 26, 2017
QUEZON CITY – The
fire at NCCC Mall in Davao City Saturday that caused the death of 37
call center workers is another proof that the core function of
government’s Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and
employers’ duty to comply with labor laws are not working in the
country, said workers’ group Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union
Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP).
“Had there been a routine
and objective workplace DOLE inspection of the mall, this
deaths-causing fire could have been minimized to the barest damage
to property. Due to DOLE officials’ negligence, workers’ lives is
sacrificed, again this time at the cost of the 37 workers trapped to
their deaths,” said ALU-TUCP spokesman Alan Tanjusay.
On May 13, 2015, 74
workers perished in Kentex rubber factory fire in Valenzuela City
despite of certification of compliance to general labor and
occupational safety and health standards made by DOLE.
The certification was
issued without inspecting onsite the Kentex factory which was found
to be a warehouse designed for storage not appropriate as workplace
for rubber workers.
From January to November
this year alone, the ALU-TUCP monitored at least 70 workers were
killed and 190 others injured in different workplace fire and mishap
incidents across the country.
DOLE Department Order
(DO)131-B, the Revised Rules on Labor Laws Compliance System, is the
implementing rules and regulations of the Article 128 of the
Philippine Labor Code that gives the Secretary of Labor the power to
inspect work establishments in the country at any time.
This power is transferred
to all DOLE regional officers and deputized to all 550 labor
inspectors or Labor Law Compliance Officers nationwide. DO 131-B
requires that all firms must be inspected using labor law compliance
assessment checklist once every two years.
Firms who violate the
checklist’s general labor standards are given 10 days to comply
while those who violate the occupational safety and health standards
are given 90 days to comply.
“The SSI call center
company must also be held liable for the deaths of their employees.
If they could have complied with the labor inspection standards on
the fire exits, sprinkler system, ventilation, lighting, noise,
entry and egress specifications, and fire evacuation plan, possible
harm could have been avoided. By wanting to save cost, their
employees’ lives were paid for the heavy price of saving cost,”
Call centers lease space
in malls to save cost, improve profit
The ALU-TUCP is urging the
DOLE to order the transfer of all call centers to a separate,
independent building to prevent similar catastrophic incident.
To save cost and improve
high margin of profit, Tanjusay said there is a current trend in
many parts of the country for call centers to rent or lease out
working spaces in shopping malls rather than constructing a building
that specifically designed as round the clock work places.
“Call centers as working
areas must be removed in malls. Call centers should have their own
separate and independent building designed for human beings working
on 24-hour work operation. Call center employees are not commodities
and goods that can be consigned in a warehouse converted as work
area,” Tanjusay added.
The DOLE’s occupational
safety and health standard checklist requires all work
establishments to have fire inspection certificate, fire protection
equipment/facilities, fire extinguishers, fire hoses, fire detection
devices, emergency exits, adequate aisles, passageways, proper
office spacing, good housekeeping, materials handling and storage,
waste disposal system, adequate lighting, work environment measure,
noise pollution control, proper ventilation and safety and health
organization plan among others.
Change in inspection
The ALU-TUCP recommends to
DOLE to shift from soft approach to hard approach in conducting
inspection and assessment of all firms and work establishments in
“We can serve a sense of
justice to the victims by making the right corrective measures to
our inspection rules. Now is the time that DOLE changes its soft
inspection approach by allowing voluntary compliance of firms.
Inspection must now be strong. Meaning, violation of labor general
and occupational safety and health standards at first instance must
be treated with strong and harsh punishment,” Tanjusay said.
“If we don’t do this now,
many more workers will be made to sacrifice in the name of improving
margin of profit and cost-cutting,” Tanjusay said.