Workers call for justice over death of 5 construction workers

NATIONAL labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno called for justice over the death of five construction workers in a power plant in Pililla, Rizal yesterday, condemning the Aquino government and big capitalists for not upholding the occupational health and safety of workers, especially those in the construction sector.

Eduardo Fiel, Antonio Manguerra, Roberto Mesias, Gregorio Ricalde, and Jeffrey Sinag of East West Corporation died when the scaffolding they were standing on collapsed from a height of 70 feet.

The workers were fixing the smokestack of SPC Malaya Power Corporation’s power plant when the accident, which also hurt 12 others, occurred.

“We call for justice over the death of five of our fellow workers in the construction sector. Their death is yet another proof of big capitalists’ violations of safety guidelines with the connivance of the Aquino government,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson.

“Workers continue to die in workplaces because capitalists continue to penny-pinch when it comes to workers’ rights and safety. The Aquino government condones violations of safety guidelines at the workplace, even when these have already resulted in workers’ death,” he added.

KMU cited the Aquino government’s failure to punish those responsible for the death of 10 construction workers last Jan. 27, 2011 who were working on a tower owned by Eton Properties Philippines, Inc., the real estate arm of business tycoon Lucio Tan.

The labor center also cited Department of Labor and Employment Order No. 57-04, which allows companies employing more than 200 workers to conduct “self-assessments” when it comes to workers’ health and safety.

Contractual employment

KMU said the construction workers’ death show how capitalists are exploiting DOLE Order No. 18-A Series of 2011, which legalizes contractual employment, in order to reduce labor costs and employ manpower agencies so they can shield themselves from responsibility for workers’ health and safety.

“Despite its huge profits from sweetheart deals with the government, SPC Malaya Power Corporation employed East West Corporation, a shady manpower agency, to reduce labor cost and avoid responsibility over workers’ health and safety. This has been an SOP in the country’s construction sector,” Labog said.

“The case of the 10 Eton workers show that big capitalists and manpower agencies can blame each other for the death of workers but won’t get punished at the end of the day. Contractual employment is being used not only to attack workers’ right to life but to bring them closer to death without anyone being held responsible,” he added.

Online sources show that SPC Power Corporation, formerly Salcon Power Corporation, “is a venture company organized by members of the Salcon Consortium which entered into a Rehabilitation, Operation, Maintenance and Management (ROMM) agreement with the National Power Corporation (NPC) on March 11, 1994 for the purpose of undertaking the ROMM of the 203.8 megawatt (MW) Naga Power Plant Complex in Colon, Naga, Cebu.”

Economic growth

The Aquino government itself said that one of the main reasons for the high growth in the country’s Gross Domestic Product is the activity in the construction sector.

“The five construction workers’ death reminds us of the kind of jobs being generated by the so-called ‘growth’ which the Aquino government brags about. These are jobs that are low-paying, contractual, and dangerous to workers’ health and safety,” he added.

“Their death show us that instead of improving workers’ lives, the jobs being created by the economy are putting workers’ lives in danger. The Filipino people need decent employment, not the precarious types that available in the construction sector,” he said.

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