Negligence, child labor seen in Bulacan warehouse accident

Buena Bernal

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Negligence, child labor seen in Bulacan warehouse accident
The labor department is pursuing the responsible firms: Hoclim Co Construction Corporation and its client Number One Golden Dragon Realty Corporation, with addresses in Quezon City

MANILA, Philippines – Two firms behind the construction of a Bulacan warehouse, whose partial collapse claimed 12 lives including 2 minors and a pregnant woman, “could be liable” of negligence and child labor, a state probe found.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) issued a cease-and-desist (CD) order against the warehouse’s construction firm, said DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz on Wednesday, January 21.

The right wall of the warehouse in Ilang-Ilang villlage in Guiguinto town fell over workers’ quarters on Monday, January 19.

A 14-year-old and a 7-year-old are among the 12 dead in the accident, with the former found out to be employed by the construction firm.

The firm Hoclim Co Construction Corporation and its client Number One Golden Dragon Realty Corporation – both with office addresses in Quezon City – also operated without a permit, the investigation found.

They have yet to appear and own up to their obligations, and have no response teams, no supervising personnel like engineers and safety officers in charge of construction work, DOLE alleged.

They “shall be held jointly and solidarily for all the violations related to the health and safety and the welfare of the victims,” the DOLE statement read further.

Baldoz urged Congress to enact a law with heavy penalties for violators of the country’s health and safety laws, as the Labor Code does not provide criminal penalty for such non-compliance with some safety and health regulations.

Compensation demanded

Labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) blamed contractual employment schemes for the incident. They said these kinds of setup allow “contractors like the Golden Dragon to subject their workers to hazardous working conditions.”

For allowing such schemes, the government’s action is tantamount to a “criminal neglect” of workers’ health and safety,” the group claimed.

“Contractualization removes the employer-employee relationship between labor contractors and their workers hence freeing them of any obligations to abide by the health and safety standards and worse, frees them of any liability in case such tragic accidents happen,” KMU’s statement read.

“It has always been a profiteering scheme for these construction contractors to disregard workers’ safety to maximize profits,” the group warned.

Baldoz ordered DOLE Metro Manila Director Alex Avila to locate the two companies involved, and DOLE Regional Director Ana Dione to ensure that these companies pay their employees’ monetary and social benefits.

The companies have been required to show proof of financial assistance to the victims’ families and of payment of salaries and remittances for Social Security System, PhilHealth, and PagIBIG contributions.

Gerard Seno, executive vice president of labor federation Associated Labor Unions-TUCP, pushed for separate charges to be filed if the companies failed to provide workers’ benefits.

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