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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, September 9, 2013
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Labor hits Dole
claim, dept’ order

BY CARLA GOMEZ

Labor leaders in Negros Occidental yesterday slammed regional director Ponciano Ligutom of the Department of Labor and Employment for claiming that 70 percent of the companies in Western Visayas are complying with labor standards.

Wennie Sancho, secretary general of the General Alliance of Workers Assembly and Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board labor representative, and Ian Evidente, Kilusang Mayo Uno spokesperson, challenged Ligutom to prove his claim.

The two also slammed the DOLE’s shift in approach to the enforcement of labor standards from regulatory to developmental to foster a culture of voluntary compliance, saying the labor department is abandoning its responsibility to protect the workers.

During a press briefing last week, Ligutom claimed that 70 percent of all businesses in the region are complying with existing labor laws, while the remaining 30 percent have already been issued notice of violations and closure orders.

The DOLE has the documents to back his disclosure, Ligutom said yesterday, in response to the labor leaders’ questions on the veracity of his claim.

Sancho and Evidente said the 70 percent claim of Ligutom did not appear to be accurate, pointing out that they know of many establishments that are still not complying with labors law.

“We will verify his claim and determine how many companies they inspected,” Sancho said.

Evidente said Ligutom cannot even enforce his own order to the management of Bacolod Columbia Marketing.

The two labor leaders also hit DOLE Department Order No. 131-13, saying that management is not likely to practice voluntary compliance of labor laws, stricter enforcement is necessary to protect workers.

Ligutom said the system will “foster a culture of voluntary compliance with labor laws by all establishments nationwide.”

“There are still employers taking advantage of the situation where they do not comply with labor standards despite the strict monitoring, how much more if it is voluntary?” Sancho asked.

“We have a Labor Code and the role of DOLE is enforcement of these laws and not on a voluntary basis. Right now, only a few follow what is mandated by the law,” Evidente said.

“DOLE is diminishing its law enforcement role, making it inutile to protect workers interests,” he also said.

Last week, Ligutom said DOLE no longer has inspectors to inspect establishments because of a shift in its strategy of enforcing labor standards laws.

Effective August 22 this year, the DOLE started implementing the new Labor Laws Compliance System provided in Department Order No. 131-13, which aims to foster voluntary compliance with labor laws by establishments nationwide.

“Under the new system, there will be no inspection but assessment wherein the government, represented by the DOLE’s labor laws compliance officer (LLCO), workers’ representative and employer, will jointly conduct assessment of a company’s compliance with labor standards,” he said.

The outdated labor inspectors will be replaced by LLCOs, who will act as assessors, teachers, coaches or advisers, who will collectively plan how to comply with the noted deficiencies, if any, together with the workers’ representative and management, he added.

The LLCO employs three approaches: joint assessment, compliance visit, and occupational safety and health investigation, he said.

The joint assessment approach is developmental wherein establishments can apply for joint assessment and secure a Certificate of Compliance if found compliant with labor standards laws, which is valid for two years unless there is a complaint, he said.

Priority is given to establishments which are considered hazardous, employing children, employing 10 or more employees, and those engaged in contracting and sub-contracting arrangements, and Philippine-registered ships or vessels engaged in domestic shipping, he also said.

Another approach calls for a compliance visit where an actual inspection is triggered by a complaint or Single Entry Approach referral, he said. If deficiencies are not resolved after 10 days, it will be reverted to a case and subjected to 30 days mandatory conciliation, he added.

The third approach is on Occupational Safety and Health Standard (OSHS) investigation that happens when there is an imminent danger, a dangerous occurrence, an accident resulting to disabling injury or OSHS violation committed in plain view, or in the presence of the LLCO, Ligutom said.

For the first two danger-related situations, a work stoppage or suspension order is issued following an investigation, he said.

He said that, for a disabling injury case, the work stoppage order is immediately enforced to allow urgent correction of the OSHS deficiency.

An OSHS violation committed in plain view or in the presence of the LLCO requires the employer to submit a status of compliance report on OSHS, and an action plan which shall be implemented within three months, Ligutom said.

After the remediation period, the LLCO will validate the establishment’s compliance regarding its deficiencies; and the moment such deficiencies are corrected, the LLCO will recommend to the regional director the issuance of a Certificate of Compliance to said establishment, he added.

Ligutom said that, based on this framework, 372 additional plantilla positions were granted by President Benigno Aquino, 21 of which were assigned to Region 6.

Applicants who are preferably engineers, LLB graduates, accountants and those from the medical profession, are being sought, he said.*CPG

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