MANILA, Philippines — A bicameral conference committee (bicam) by the Lower and Upper House approved on Monday a bill which seeks to strengthen compliance of employees with occupational safety and health standards (OSHS). It also seeks to amend the 41-year-old Labor Code of the Philippines which, at present, does not declare unlawful violations of OSHS.
During the bicam meeting, the House contingent agreed to adopt the Senate’s version of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) bill.
Under the bill, an administrative fine of P100,000 per day of non-correction of OSH standards violation would be imposed, counted from the date the employer or contractor is notified of the violation or the date the compliance order is duly served against the employer.
For the longest time, violation of OSH standards has no fines or penalties. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) only issues a Work Stoppage Order (WSO) if there is an imminent danger or would result to disabling injury.
Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas welcomed this “historic advance” after four years of “active lobbying and campaigns together with workers’ organizations.”
Brosas, one of the authors of the measure, said the party-list primarily lauds the workers who have actively campaigned for the passage of the landmark legislation.
“We laud workers who have actively campaigned for this important legislation, as well as families of victims who tirelessly pressed the House labor committee to take the lead in fast-tracking the measure,” Brosas said.
The progressive lawmaker said the bicameral version covers all establishments and workplaces, including firms in special economic zones (SEZs).
“Companies inside economic zones can no longer refuse spot inspections regarding OSH standards compliance or when accidents take place,” said Brosas.
The bill also includes workers’ right of refusal to work, allowing workers to skip work with pay based on the assessment of an “imminent danger” in the workplace, she added.
“Campaign for criminalization of violations to continue”
Brosas however noted that the section on penalties only contains administrative fines of up to P100,000 for each day that the violation is not corrected, leaving out criminal sanctions for employers.
But Brosas said this is already an improvement from the current range of P1,000 to P10,000 administrative fines.
She said the campaign for criminalization of violations would continue.
“We will definitely file a new bill supplementing the OSH bill once it is signed into law,” Brosas said.
Gabriela, together with Makabayan bloc opposition lawmakers, first filed the measure in 2014 during the 16th Congress following waves of workplace mishaps that include the Eton Residences tragedy in Makati City and deaths in Hanjin shipyard in Subic, Zambales
Brosas specifically thanked the Safe Workplaces Network, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and the Institute for Occupational Health and Safety for Development (IOHSAD) for their efforts in pushing for the OSH bill.
Senator Joel Villanueva, chair of the Senate committee on labor, said he hopes the bill will be ratified by both chambers before the last day of session on May 30. The bill would then be sent to President Rodrigo Duterte for his signature.
“Kahapon, may gumuhong concrete beam sa ginagawang flyover sa Imus. Noong isang araw, apat na manggagawa ng subcontractor ng Hanjin ang nalaglag sa scaffolding sa Subic na ikinamatay ng isang trabahador. This bill, once enacted into law, would finally give teeth to our 41-year Labor Code and would thus force establishments to comply to occupational safety and health standards,” Villanueva said. (davaotoday.com)