THERE’S no doubt that the workers and unions will fully support any measure that will provide “teeth” to the toothless collection of norms, rules and regulations on workplace safety in the country, called the Occupational Safety and Health Standards (OSHS).
This was assured by the national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro) amid moves to revive or fast-track pending OSH bills in the House of Representatives and the call from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) chief urging both houses of Congress to hasten the passage of bills that will criminalize noncompliance of safety standards in workplaces.
“The need for an effective or working OSHS, the one which commands respect and fear especially among those who violate or will try to violate these workplace safety standards, has further been underscored by the Kentex tragedy last May 13,” Josua Mata, Sentro secretary general, said.
“However, simultaneous with this newfound enthusiasm to finally clamp down on unscrupulous employers and companies that violate OSHS with impunity, is also the pressing need to fight contractualization or precarious work arrangements, which do not only perpetuate job insecurity, low wages, measly benefits and breed other abuses – but also prohibit the workers from organizing or joining a union,” Mata emphasized.
He explained that “unless the workers are regularized, they will never have a real union that can ensure that all well-meaning laws, including an OSHS with teeth, are actually and effectively implemented or enforced.”
Few days after that horrific factory fire which killed at least 72 workers and over 20 are still missing, the House Committee on Labor and Employment announced that it will hold a hearing on May 20 to discuss and possibly to fast-track four pending OSH-related bills – HB 2226, HB 2471, HB 4594 and HB 4635.
Joining the fray, DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz issued a statement exhorting the senators and congressmen to expedite the enactment of at least three House and Senate bills that will formally outlaw and prosecute violations of the OSHS – the already cited HB 2226 and 2471, and SB 1368.
The current OSH standards still do not prescribe criminal penalties, thus the need to finally “criminalize” – or make illegal or become punishable as a crime – the offenses or violations here. This “body of standards, rules and regulations” was promulgated in 1978 and amended in 1989.