By Samuel Medenilla
Following the blaze that gutted a mall in Davao City during the weekend, which killed 37 call center agents, a labor group urged the government to require business process outsourcing (BPO) firms to have their own office.
Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) spokesperson Alan Tanjusay blamed the “cost-cutting” measure of Survey Sampling International (SSI) by operating within a mall for the death of its 37 employees.
“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,” Tanjusay said in a statement.
The SSI workers perished after the NCCC mall, where their office was located, was engulfed by a fire on Saturday.
On Sunday, authorities managed to recover the remains of all the trapped SSI employees.
“ALU-TUCP is urging the DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) to order the transfer of all call centers to a separate, independent building to prevent similar catastrophic incident,” Tanjusay reiterated.
Tanjusay said DOLE is also liable for the incident for its lax enforcement of its labor inspection.
“Had there been a routine and objective workplace DOLE inspection of the mall, this deaths-causing fire could have been minimized to the barest damage to property,” Tanjusay said.
“Due to DOLE officials’ negligence, workers’ lives are sacrificed, again this time at the cost of the 37 workers trapped to their deaths,” he added.
ALU-TUCP is now demanding for a more stricter implementation of DOLE’s regular labor inspection to avoid a similar workplace accident.
The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the DOLE are now conducting their separate investigations on the fire incident.
For his part, Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello III said they will hold the NCCC mall management accountable if they will find out it violated occupational safety and health standards (OSHS).