President Noynoy Aquino has recently ordered the inspection of 300,000 establishments in the National Capital Region (NCR) in relation to the tragic May 13 Kentex factory fire that claimed the lives of 72 factory workers. He also hinted that Valenzuela City's local officials could be held liable for allowing the slipper factory to operate despite numerous violations on fire safety and labor standards.
To make matters more controversial, reports also say that the Kentex factory employees worked in a hazardous environment and had to deal with harsh working conditions. And to top that all off, they allegedly were paid well below the minimum wage set by the government.
Just like every other tragedy before it, the events of May 13 had us scratching our heads and asking the kind of questions we should already know the answers to. Are we aware of how extreme the working conditions of some of the members of our local workforce are? Are labor standards really adhered to? It's high time to shed light on this oft-neglected subject matter. No one wants another disaster of this magnitude.
Because we're also part of the working class and feel that information is always vital, below is a rundown of the regular Pinoy worker's basic rights based on a module from the Department of Labor and Employee.
Read on, fellow workhorse, and be informed!
STAYING SINGLE CANNOT BE REQUIRED
If the job demands that you cannot get married, be wary (i.e. it's probably because your boss has the hots for you). The DOLE says that such a demand is not allowed. It's the same story if it's the reason for your dismissal.
Discrimination against female employees is also a big no-no, with workers of any gender, race or creed given equal treatment at work, promotion and training opportunities, as well as fair compensation.
YOU CANNOT BE AUTOMATICALLY "FIRED"
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This is where the saying "Trabaho lang, walang personalan" comes in. It is stated that a worker can only be dismissed from work with "just or authorized" causes, which are:
Just Cause — any wrongdoing committed by an employee:
- Serious misconduct
- Willful disobedience of the employers' lawful orders connected with work
- Gross and habitual neglect of duty
- Fraud or willful breach of trust
- Commission of crime or offense against the employer, employer's family member/s or representative
- Other analogous cases
Authorized Cause — economic circumstances not due to the employee's fault
- The introduction of labor-saving devices
- Retrenchment to prevent losses
- Closure or cessation of business
Due process must also be carried out before someone hauls his or her stuff out of the work desk.
For just causes, the employee must be informed of the dismissal and its grounds. Likewise, he or she should be given a chance to air his or her side. Meanwhile, for authorized causes, a worker has to be given a written notice of dismissal at least 30 days before the date of termination.
YOU CANNOT WORK FOR SEVEN DAYS STRAIGHT
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No matter how much you love your work, you also need to rest. That is why a day-off of 24 consecutive hours after six days of eight-hour work—which includes breaks, rest, and meal periods—is required (except for compressed work week schedules). You don't want to be burned out now, do you?
YOUR WAGE CAN NEITHER BE DEDUCTED FROM NOR DELAYED
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Basically, paydays shouldn't be less than once every two weeks, or twice a month at intervals not exceeding 16 days. This is why if your sweldo hasn't arrived yet after a couple of months, you might want to rethink staying with the company.
On the other hand, allowed deductions from an employee's salary are only that of insurance premiums (with the employee's consent), union dues, withholding taxes, SSS premiums and other deductions expressly authorized by law. It wouldn't hurt to always check your payslip or ask the accounting and/or human resources department for clarification.
A MINOR IS ALLOWED TO WORK, GIVEN THAT IT DOESN'T AFFECT SCHOOLING
Apparently, the law still prioritizes education despite legally allowing child workers (below 15 years old). It is stated that working minors should be directly under the sole responsibility of their parents or guardians, and that work does not interfere with the kids' schooling and/or normal development.
EVERYONE IS ENTITLED TO A SAFE WORKING ENVIRONMENT
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Reports indicate that there were no sprinklers in the Kentex factory building, the working area was overcrowded, and the windows had metal grills, which was why escaping from the blaze was impossible. The country's lax safety standards were also evident after a government assessment found out that the factory has supposedly complied with occupational safety requirements. Now you know why pre-employment tours are very important...
Especially with jobs classified as only hazardous or highly-hazardous, the government and employers have to go hand-in-hand in providing workers on-the-job protection through safe and healthy working conditions. And, what's the use of these Occupational Health and Safety Standards if it's not implemented or the powers-that-be won't comply, right?
For the full text of The Workers Basic Rights, click here!