Following the death of four septic tank workers in Ali Mall Quezon City last Thursday, August 30, the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) urged the government to amend laws concerning occupational health and safety (OHS) standards and labor contractualization.

Daisy Arago, executive director of CTUHR said, “Apart from a thorough investigation of the case, this incident calls for a review and amendment of our laws concerning OHS standards and labor contractualization.”

According to Arago, although Rule 11-20 of the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) OHS Standards stipulates the employers should provide PPE’s or personal protective equipment to workers in hazardous workplaces, the law is mum on the employers’ accountability to the law and the victims when accidents occur.

“Rule 11-20 only identifies what are considered hazardous workplaces and states that employers should provide PPEs to their workers involved in these areas…but what must be done to those employers that are found guilty of not complying with the OHS standards?” Arago stressed.

“Especially in cases where work-related accidents lead to death, it is not enough that employers are only made to burden funeral expenses or give the families of victims some thousands of pesos as consolation for their loved ones’ death. Ultimately, employers must face administrative, civil and even criminal liability to bring full justice to the victims,” Arago said.

Arago further explained that clear sanctions will give teeth to the law and could somehow deter future accidents due to negligence and non-compliance to OHS standards by companies.

On August 30, around 3:30 am, Marvin Aleman and Romy, Rodel,  and Romel Suarez drowned while they were finishing their work in a septic tank in Ali Mall. Investigation of the local government of Quezon City points to RCBC plumbing services, the job contractor, as solely responsible for the death of the workers.

Meanwhile, CTUHR also showed concern why it is only the contractor, RCBC plumbing, which was found responsible for the accident. “It shouldn’t only be the contractor; the principal, Alimall, should also be made to answer [to the victims]. Why did they sign a contract with RCBC plumbing services when it does not comply with OHS standards?” Arago asked.

Arago also criticized contractualization, as a way of capitalists to evade responsibility to workers in cases of accidents and called for the repeal of the law on contractualization, “This case is just among the many reasons why the law on labor contractualization must be repealed. The changes made by DOLE Department Order 18-A are not enough to protect the workers’ welfare. The fact the labor contracting is still allowed, principals can always get away from liability in cases like these by pointing fingers at their contractors. In the end it is the workers who suffer the most.”###