KMU cries justice over death of four workers in Ali Mall
“How many more workers will have to die before workers’ occupational health and safety is seriously addressed?”
This was labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno’s question as it called for justice over the death of four septic tank workers who drowned while working in the midnight of August 30 in Ali Mall in Cubao.
The workers were identified as Romy Suarez, 50 years old, Rommel Suarez, 20-25, Rodel Suarez, 20, and Marvin Aleman, 25-30, all working for RCBC Plumbing Services employed by the Ali Mall management to check on the building’s water drainage system following a complaint by a tenant for clogging.
According to the spot police report, the incident started at 3:30 am when Rodel Suarez removed the clogged dirt in the pipe and the water level suddenly rose. The three other victims tried to rescue Rodel but also drowned.
“We condemn the Mar Roxas’s Araneta family, owners of Ali Mall, for the death of four of their workers. It is clear that the owners and management of Ali Mall violated workers’ occupational health and safety,” said Lito Ustarez, KMU vice-chairperson.
“We appeal to the Department of Labor and Employment to immediately investigate the possible violations of the employers of the 4 victims and mete out severe punishments,” he added.
“We also condemn Pres. Aquino for failing to secure the conviction of employees in many cases of workers’ death in workplaces under his term,” he said, citing the death of 10 construction workers of Eton Towers in Makati last Jan. 2011, of 17 workers of Novo Jeans and Shirts Company in Butuan City last May, and of six workers of Keppel Subic Shipyard last Oct. 2011.
The labor center said that Rule 1120 on hazardous workplaces of the occupational health and safety standards appears to have been violated in the case:
The rule states that “Before a worker or group of workers enters any confined or enclosed space and before any work is commenced, the area shall be checked visually to ensure that the water level is below 15 cm. (6 in.) and if water is present, a dry wooden platform shall be available for use.
“Furthermore, approved types of breathing apparatus and other personal protective equipment shall be provided and made available for use by the worker or workers entering a confined space.”
Reports say the workers were not wearing any safety gear or protective equipment while inside the septic tanks, while the mall’s shift engineer was present to supervise the work.
“We reiterate our condemnation of the Labor Department’s Order 57-04 which allows companies with more than 200 workers to conduct self-assessments, allowing them to violate labor standards on workers’ occupational health and safety,” said Ustarez.
“The cycle of indifference to the dangers that workers face every day must end now. We demand justice for all victims of companies’ and the government’s criminal negligence,” he added.
KMU is calling for the crafting a comprehensive law on occupational health and safety which will effectively penalize violators.
Lito Ustarez, KMU vice-chairperson