Philippines: Lightning Rally to Highlight Safety and Health

On April 7, one day prior to the Asia Pacific Regional Conference that was held in Manila, Philippines, members of the BWI affiliates in the Philippines - All Labour Union (ALU) and the National Union of Building and Construction Workers (NUBCW) conducted a lightning picket at Suites construction in Bonifacio Global City, where two months earlier 2 workers died and 11 were injured due to an accident due to poor safety. The objective of the rally was to highlight calls to institute policies for a zero-accident workplace environment for all workers.

The death of two workers at the BGC site comes at the heels of similar incidents occurring at a refinery in Bataan last February where 1 died and 10 were hurt. In January the warehouse building collapsed in Guiguinto in Bulacan province killing 12 construction workers including a 14 year-old minor and a pregnant woman. There was also an accident at the Skyway extension project though no one was hurt.

The DOLE recently announced it would form a tripartite Construction Safety Monitoring Task Force to monitor cases of workplace safety violations.

Apolinar Tolentino, Regional Representative of BWI issued a back to basic call, “If workers were allowed to unionize they would be in a better position to educate each other and conduct workplace monitoring. That is empowerment; that is respect for workers’ rights.”

Santiago Nolla, Youth Organizer for NUBCW echoed the benefits of organizing workers to improve safety and health. He stated, “Unionizing construction workers have the potential to turn workers into self-help organizations capable of finding shared solutions to workplace safety and other issues.”

“Government, contractors and workers should not have to wait for an accident to happen before reacting,” warned Tolentino. “The rights of workers – who cut the smallest piece of the economic pie already -- should be primary at all times, and meeting engineering deadlines should not take precedence over their lives.”

During the flash mob picket held at BGC, the BWI along with its affiliates ALU and NUBCW held placards calling for justice and just reparation for victims of unsafe working conditions.

Gerard Seno of ALU called for full compensation for families of those injured or killed. He stated, “It is not enough that contractors are penalized. There should also be thorough efforts at restitution and ensuring that the quality of living of the victims and their families are also taken care of.”