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Workers groups join Day of Mourning for Butuan fire victims

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Various groups in the National Capital Region held a solidarity action at the Plaza Miranda today, May 10, as they joined the Day of Mourning declared by Butuan City for the 17 women workers who died after a fire gutted their workplace yesterday, May 9, 2012.

Seventeen workers of the Novo Department Store, located at Montilla Boulevard, Butuan City, perished after being trapped inside the said building. The victims were Rogelyn Mantubacan, Jonalie Amor, Judelyn Ore, Villa Rose Dumagpi, Ellenie Ocoy, Prences Grace Sayre, Anniejoy Lagura, Mylyn Lirazon, Pengky Despolo, Jessie Dajuya, Princess Mae Figueras, Irene Baliquig, Hazel Cabaña, Liezel Dalaygon, Jeba Salbigsal, Maribel Buico and Gladys Hope Sabila, all stay-in employees of Novo.

“We offer our condolences to the families and survivors of this terrible incident,” said Noel Colina, Executive Director of the Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development ( “Authorities must conduct a comprehensive investigation on the incident and ensure those who have neglected the safety of the women workers be held liable.”

According to Colina, Rule 1943.03 of the Philippine Occupational Health and Standards (OHSS) outlines the need to have 'at least of 2 exits every floor and basement capable of clearing the work area in five (5) minutes'. “There must also be a safety plan in case of fire which the workers should made familiar with.”

Accounts from various reports tell of the practice of the employer to lock-in the workers at night to prevent inventory pilferage. “This has been confirmed by the survivors of the fire and is a clear violation of the safety of the workers,” opined Colina. “The victims also worked for 12-14 hours a day, receiving a wage of only P160/day.”

The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates 2.2 M workers dying annually across the globe due to work. “In 2011, IOHSAD recorded 3 workers dying every week due to their work. Work remains the top killer of workers,” continued Colina.

Colina reiterated the need to improve and add strong penal provision to the existing OHSS. “We should also legislate Industrial Manslaughter to prosecute employers who neglect their duty to protect the health and safety of their workers."