Workers not allowed to evacuate during earthquake 'can file complaints'
MANILA, Philippines – Workers who were not allowed to evacuate from their offices when a magnitude 6.1 earthquake jolted Luzon on Monday, April 22, may file complaints with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said on Wednesday, April 24.
Since the earthquake, Bello said DOLE has received messages from workers regarding the matter. These messages, however, did not contain specific information which the agency needs for it to act.
"Even text info will be sufficient for DOLE to conduct an inspection," Bello told Rappler.
Scenes from the strong earthquake that hit Luzon saw several buildings in Metro Manila swaying as the ground shook. A supermarket, heritage sites, and homes in Pampanga also sustained damage or collapsed. (IN PHOTOS: Evacuations follow after magnitude 6.1 earthquake hits Luzon)
The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) and BPO Industry Employees Network both said workers from business process outsourcing firms were among those who were not evacuated during the quake.
Workers, they added, were also made to resume work right after, without waiting for the structural integrity of the buildings to be checked.
TUCP president Raymond Mendoza said doing so was a form of "abuse," as it compromised the lives of employees.
Responding to this, Bello said employers who did not observe safety precautions may face administrative penalties.
"It's a violation of the occupational safety [law]…. DOLE may file administrative penalties if warranted," he said.
Republic Act No. 11058 or An Act Strengthening Compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Standards requires employers to respond to possible hazards in the workplace and inform workers of these accordingly.
Under the law, workers also have the right to refuse work if the workplace is unsafe, without threat from their employer.
Employers, contractors, subcontractors, or work supervisors who violate the law will have to pay a fine of P100,000 for every day that a violation is not remedied, counting from the day the employer is notified or the compliance order is issued by DOLE.
On Tuesday afternoon, April 23, a stronger earthquake – with a magnitude of 6.5 – struck parts of the Visayas. – Rappler.com