Eton Properties just making excuses – KMU
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Labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) slammed today Eton Properties’ pronouncement that the cause of Eton building tragedy last Jan. 27 was the workers’ efforts of shortcutting processes in the building’s construction.
“Eton Properties has no shame in saying that it was the dead workers’ efforts to shortcut processes that resulted in their untimely death. It is just making excuses in the face of evidence showing that it is liable for the incident,” said Roger Soluta, KMU secretary-general.
Eton Properties said that the 11 construction workers were making shortcuts when they boarded the make-shift gondola, which has the capacity of only five people, to go to the lower floors for their lunch break. It said the workers should have used the stairs or the construction elevator instead.
“Findings clearly show that among the 14 violations of safety and labor standards committed by Eton Properties and its contractors and subcontractors are the lack of permit to use a gondola lift and the absence of an accredited gondola lift operator. Eton Properties is clearly at fault for the tragedy,” Soluta said.
More than shortcutting
KMU urged the Department of Labor and Employment and President Benigno Aquino III to heed calls to end subcontracting schemes in the country and implement strict regulations pertaining to the health and safety of workers.
“It is very infuriating that something like the Eton tragedy, which killed 10 people, is needed to prompt the government to at least get a peek into the plight of the construction workers in the country. We reiterate our challenge to Pres. Aquino: probe the Eton tragedy, punish those responsible for the crime, and make the necessary pro-worker reforms,” Soluta said.
“Filipinos are forced to enter such destitute working arrangements since there are few options for survival. The construction workers were only receiving a wage of P260 per day, which is far below than the minimum P404, and were even denied of health and insurance benefits. That is more than shortcutting, that is criminal,” Soluta said.
Contracting and subcontracting was institutionalized by DOLE Department Order 18-02. According to Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, Inc. (EILER), big construction investors, like the Lucio Tan-owned Eton Properties, normally tap a web of subcontractors which employ contractual workers for specific segments of a construction project to minimize labor cost, since subcontractors generally pay lower wages.
Gov’t reneging on its task
The militant labor center also supported calls to revoke Department Order 57-04 which allows employers with more than 200 workers to conduct self-assessment of compliance with labor standards and criticized the proposal of Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) to deputize labor leaders as labor inspectors to increase the number of inspectors several fold overnight.
“PM’s proposal is anti-worker and brings music to the ears of the government and capitalists. The government must play its task in protecting workers’ rights and safety, and not pass this on to the Filipino workers. PM is merely trying to extend what the government is already doing, as its proposal is already contained in DOLE Department Order 57-04 which says that there should be labor representation in the conduct of self-assessments,” Soluta said.
“Ultimately, PM’s proposal is impossible because the construction industry is the stronghold of contractualization in the country, where workers are denied of their right to organize unions. So deputizing union leaders in the construction sector to protect their fellow workers from accidents is like deputizing guardian angels to do the task,” Soluta added.
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