Labor group urges DOLE to release report on BPO firm SSI, which lost 37 workers in Davao blaze

Smoke rises from the NCCC mall in Davao City, which was struck by fire on Dec. 23. (Courtesy Otto van Dacula via Reuters)

MANILA, Philippines — A labor group has urged the Department of Labor and Employment to make public the labor inspection report it made on Survey Systems International before the December 23 fire that broke out at the NCCC Mall in Davao City, killing 37 employees of the data provider firm and a mall security officer.

“The notice of results (NR), otherwise known as the labor inspection report of the inspection conducted by the DOLE Davao regional office must be made public,” Alan Tanjusay, spokesperson of the group Associated Labor Union-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP), said in a statement.

“This report is very important if we want to find out the truth and if we want to render justice to the … SSI employees who perished in the fire,” he stressed.

“We are asking the DOLE regional office to show us the result of the inspection they conducted at SSI as soon as possible to avoid cover-up or whitewash on the vital information and crucial facts surrounding the fire incident,” Tanjusay said.

The NR contains the accomplished form issued by the DOLE’s Labor Law Compliance Officers to DOLE regional officers indicating the results of the onsite inspection visits they made using general labor standards and occupational safety and health standards measurements on labor laws compliance assessment checklist.

Aside from determining the wages and social protection benefits, labor inspectors are also mandated to check if work establishments comply with the Fire Safety Inspection Certificate issued by the Bureau of Fire Protection, and if they are equipped with fire protection equipment and facilities, fire extinguishers and firehoses, and ensure if there are installed and functioning fire detection devices.

The checklist also requires inspectors to determine if there are at least two unobstructed fire exits on every floor, adequate aisles and passageways with sufficient width and height and proper signs and markings; proper office spacing, good housekeeping, proper materials handling and storage; waste disposal system, work environment measure, adequate lighting, noise pollution control and proper ventilation, among others.

The ALU-TUCP earlier called for the removal of call centers from shopping malls.

To save cost and improve margin of profit, Tanjusay said call centers rent out working spaces in shopping malls rather than construct a building specifically designed as round-the-clock work places.

Call centers as working areas must be removed in malls. Call centers should have their own separate and independent building designed for human beings working on 24-hour work operation. Call center employees are not commodities and goods that can be consigned in a warehouse converted as work area,” he said.

In a separate statement, Gabriela party-list Representative Arlene Brosas called for the immediate passage of the Occupational Safety and Health bill, which calls for the mandatory inspection of all workplaces across the country, including those located in ecozones, and imposes stiffer penalties on employers for work-related deaths and injuries.

“The NCCC mall fire tragedy yet again exposes how PEZA-registered ecozones are violating fire and occupational safety standards right under the government’s nose. We’ve seen this in the HTI tragedy in Cavite Export Processing Zone and in the Resorts World incident. Ilang manggagawa pa ba ang kailangang magbuwis ng buhay para gawing mandatory ang inspection (How many more workers need to die before inspections become mandatory)?” Brosas said.

The House of Representatives has transmitted the approved version of the bill to the Senate.