DAVAO CITY – Militant labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno blamed the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for failing to prevent the factory explosion which killed a worker and injured several others last May 30, 2014. The group asserted that had the DOLE ensured the strict adherence of Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) standards in Superstar Coconut Products, the tragedy would have been prevented. The group noted that in a narrative inspection report in 2011, DOLE had already noted several lapses and deficiencies on the part of Superstar with respect to the 1) oil mill/boiler equipment, 2) provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) and 3) basic training on OSH, but did nothing substantial to require the company’s implementation of safety standards.
“Obviously, DOLE was remiss in ensuring that Superstar address these deficiencies. On the death of Eriberto Abellana and injury of other workers, we blame both DOLE and Superstar. Their negligence led to the death of a worker and they should be held accountable,” said Joel Maglunsod, Mindanao spokesperson for Kilusang Mayo Uno.
Maglunsod also warned that tragedies such as these are kept hidden from public scrutiny as workers are warned against speaking out lest they be dismissed. In Mintrade, a plywood manufacturer, a forklift operator had his eyes exposed to sawdust but the company offered no free medical assistance. Mintrade offered him a cash advance of only P30,000 for his medical needs. Eventually, that worker lost his eyesight.
“There are many more of such stories that describe the miserable plight of our workers. Capitalists will attempt to shirk their responsibility in enforcing OSH standards in the workplace so that they can squeeze more profits. But we must not let the workplace become a death sentence for workers – we must fight for our right to safe and healthful working conditions,” Maglunsod added.
Meanwhile, the labor group expressed their agreement to the finding of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) that the Philippines was “one of the worst countries for workers.” According to Ebenezer Tan, deputy secretary general of KMU Southern Mindanao, trade union repression has been on the rise, making it difficult for genuine trade unions to organize themselves and exercise their right to collectively bargain.
For instance, in Masters Port Services, Inc., brazen management intervention and bribery marred the certification election (CE) process. MPSI management deployed cash and goons in order to influence the workers into voting against the KMU-affiliated union Nagkahiusang Mamumu-o sa MPSI (NAMMPSI-NAFLU-KMU). Two union leaders were arbitrarily suspended then eventually terminated in order to sow fear among the workers. After NAMMPSI failed to win the CE, MPSI management coerced workers who voted for NAMMPSI into disavowing their support with the threat of termination. Around 10 union members and leaders have been suspended without due process.
In Apex Mining Co., Inc,. union leaders and officers of Bigkis ng Manggagawa ng Apex Mines (BINA-ADLO-KMU) were subjected to red tagging by management and were coerced into receiving monetary compensation in order to leave the company. In fact, the union president was forced to resign in order to avoid further harassment.
In Radyo Mindanao Network, the union RMN Davao Employees Union (RDEU) encountered gross violations in the implementation of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Management did not fill vacated positions with regular employees but instead hired new employees without the union’s recommendation, in violation of the CBA. Furthermore, the network’s radio programs have become a soapbox for military propaganda where the union itself and KMU regional leaders are tagged as supporters of the New People’s Army.
“DOLE’s collusion with capitalists has eroded the autonomy of the trade unions as a legitimate and democratic expression of worker’s collective interests. It has allowed capitalists to exploit the trade unions to the workers’ detriment,” Tan added.
The group said they will hold a candlelighting activity at Superstar Coconut Products in Ma-a, Davao City at 5:30 in the afternoon to call justice for the victims of the Superstar fire and press for safe working conditions of workers all over the country and the world.###
Joel Maglunsod, Spokesperson for Mindanao, Kilusang Mayo Uno, 0919-612-9271
Ebenezer Tan, KMU Southern Mindanao deputy secretary general, 0942-372-6062
Carl Anthony Olalo, President, Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Masters Port Services, Inc. (NAMMPSI-NAFLU-KMU, 0912-386-1000