Private companies criticized over non-suspension of work amid Taal Volcano eruption

January 14, 2020 - 12:11 PM
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Taal volcano island
Residents in their bankas amid the Taal volcano eruption (The STAR/Miguel de Guzman)

Big businesses in affected areas who still required employees to report for work despite the ashfall of the erupting Taal Volcano early this week were criticized online for their indifference to the situation.

Malacañang previously advised the private sector to suspend work for the safety of their workers.

Senator Risa Hontiveros also requested the same given the health risk of ashfall.

“Ashfall is a great health risk. Pwedeng magka-respiratory problems and skin irritation kung may prolonged exposure. Please do not require employees to get to work. Safety first!” the senator tweeted.

However, several companies, even those near the volcano, still did not suspend work during the heavy ashfall on January 12 and 13.

Calls for work suspension in the private sector trended on Twitterverse on January 13.

Labor group Defend Job Philippines also denounced business processing companies in Laguna over their non-suspension of work despite the area being placed in high alert level status due to the eruption.

“We would like to remind companies and employers that we already have a law — the RA11058 or the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Law — that penalizes companies who will proven to fail OSH standards and in taking care of their workers’ safety in this time of disaster,” Christian Lloyd Magsoy, Defend Job Philippines spokesperson, said on Facebook.

NEWS: Labor group enraged over non-suspension of work for BPO workers in Laguna amid Taal eruptionLabor group, Defend…

Posted by Defend Job Philippines on Sunday, January 12, 2020

Philip Jamilla, a member of human rights group Karapatan, retweeted a story which followed vendors who fed evacuees in Batangas for a day as something both the government and the corporate world could emulate.

“If small entrepreneurs and vendors can give up their income for a day to extend immediate assistance to calamity victims, we have all the right to demand big corporations and the government with their millions of profit to perform their responsibilities,” Jamilla said.

Meanwhile, a member of Agham Youth, an organization of science advocates in the University of the Philippines-Diliman, emphasized providing the recommended N95 masks for cleaning staff who are required to work.

“Sana bigyan muna sila ng matinong masks diba? Grabe talaga,” Xian Guevarra said who retweeted a photo from a news organization showing workers sweeping at a mall in Batangas.

The Department of Labor and Employment later released an advisory reminding private employers about the rights of their workers during natural or man-made calamities.

In section 3 of Labor Advisory No. 01, DOLE stated:

“Employees who fail or refuse to work by reason of imminent danger resulting from natural or man-made calamity shall not be exposed to or subject to any administrative sanction.”

The decision to suspend work still depends on the management or administration of the company as stated in section 1.

“In the exercise of management prerogative and in coordination with the safety and health committee or safety officer, or any other responsible company officer, suspend work to ensure the safety and health of their employees during natural or man-made calamity.”

Can the government suspend work in the private sector?

Malacañang previously ordered the suspension of all classes and government in Metro Manila and CALABARZON following the Taal volcano explosion.

Atty. Gideon Peña shared that the government can actually order a suspension for both public and private sectors.

One user commented a screenshot of a memorandum circular issued back in 2012 wherein the government made such order due to a natural calamity.

According to the Official Gazette, the president can issue memorandum circulars on internal administrative matters or anything that the president desires “to bring to the attention of all or some of the departments, agencies, bureaus, or offices of the government, for information or compliance.”

As of publication, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said that the air quality in parts of Metro Manila have improved in the morning of January 14.