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HOUSE PANEL OKS GABRIELA SHIELD BILL TO PREVENT WORKERS’DEATH AND ACCIDENTS

Survivors and orphaned families of victims of the Kentex factory fire see a glimmer of hope in preventing future workplace tragedies after bills for tighter occupational health and safety (OHS) standards passed the House Committee on Labor and Employment.

Gabriela Women’s Party Representatives Emmi De Jesus and Luzviminda Ilagan both said the approval is a positive development and hopes that a counterpart measure will soon move forward in the Senate.

The Gabriela lawmakers filed “An Act Imposing Strict Compliance through Mandatory Inspection and Providing Penalties for Violations of Occupational Safety and Health Provisions of the Labor Code, also known as the “Workers’ Safety and Health Inspection and Employers’ Liability Decree” or “Workers’ SHIELD,” after eight women workers perished in a Pasay warehouse in 2014.

The proposed measure mandates the compulsory scrutiny by state inspectors of workplace conditions. The proposed return to stricter standards and greater worker participation, proponents say, potentially reverses the substandard and deficient system of “voluntary inspection” where employers can get by without entirely complying with workplace safety checklists.

The bill prescribes higher penalties on violators, ranging from PhP150, 000k per injury to PhP250, 000 per death, and imprisonment. Workers are represented by the union in the safety and health committee, or at least be selected thru majority vote if no union exists.

De Jesus said, “The increase of workplace accidents and the lack of mechanisms that ensure workers’ immediate compensation are proof of how the Department of Labor and Employment has fallen short of its obligations to ensure workers’ safety. Nagtitiis na nga sa mababang sahod at sa kawalang kasiguruhan sa trabaho ang nakararaming manggagawa, naisasadlak pa sila sa mga mapanganib na kundisyon sa paggawa!”

The prevailing system is promoted by the Department of Labor and Employment under the Aquino administration as “best practices” yet workers deaths and property damage featured prominently in news headlines during the past four years.

Major provisions of the bill were merged with the bill filed by committee chair Rep. Karlo Nograles, while major labor federations and labor rights advocacy NGOs fed significant refinements. De Jesus however said jubilation over the committee approval must be tempered by the need to get a congruent Senate version and for workers groups stay vigilant to prevent the bicameral conference process from watering down the House version.

Posted By: Lynne Pingoy

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