Pasay fire raze victims may claim EC benefits; get livelihood assistance from DOLE

Acting Labor and Employment Secretary Ciriaco A. Lagunzad yesterday said that victims of the fire incident in Pasay City may claim employee compensation benefits even if they are not enrolled with the Social Security System (SSS).

Lagunzad issued statement following a fire incident on 30 May 2014 at a two-storey residential house and warehouse of Asia Metrotech Coby Trading located at No. 317 P. Samonte Street, Brgy. 47, Zone 6, Pasay City.

“As long as there is an employer-employee relationship, a worker can file an employees’ compensation claim from any SSS branch,” said Lagunzad.

Employees Compensation Commission (ECC) Executive Director Stella Banawis confirmed this, saying that even if the worker-victims were not SSS  members, they can still file claims under the Employees’ Compensation Program.

Acting Secretary Lagunzad said she had directed Executive Director Banawis to dispatch an ECC Quick Response Team to Negros Oriental to visit the families of the eight workers who died during the fire incident to assist them in the filing and claiming of their EC benefit.

“There is already an ongoing coordination between DOLE-NCR and DOLE Region 7 as to the granting of livelihood training and assistance for the survivors who expressed their interest to go back to Negros Oriental,” Lagunzad also said.

“DOLE-NCR is already preparing the livelihood proposal for them as the DOLE Region 7 staff will determine the possible livelihood undertaking that the survivors and their families can venture into,” he added.

In a report to the Acting Secretary, DOLE-NCR OIC-Regional Director Nelson C. Hornilla stated that the site investigation conducted by Field Office Director Rowella Grande, Engineers Jose Viray and Fylene Gozon, and Gina Canon revealed that the fire was electrical in nature.

Asia Metrotech Coby Trading, an establishment involved in assembling electronic gadgets, such as cellular phones, DVDs, and tablets imported from China, has no business permit. The company employs 40 workers.

The fire killed eight out of 16 workers, all female. According to the investigation, it at the sleeping quarters at the second floor of the residential building. The first floor housed the warehouse and working area.

The survivors, who hail from different towns of Negros Oriental, were identified as Michelle Callao, 20, Almira Zuniga, 22; Dally delos Niños, 18; Cherrylyn Calam, 23; Nikki Torres, 22; Janice Bajo, 20; Irene Acuna; and a minor, Jessa Mae Callao, 16.
“The six women workers described their working area as acceptable, with air conditioning and enough space to move around. Each worker is also provided with table and chair. An emergency exit is reported to be located in the kitchen at the ground floor,” OIC-Regional Director Hornilla’s report stated.

According to the women workers who are currently staying at the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Haven for Women in Muntinlupa, they were all recruited by manager-owner Juanito Tiu Go to work as electronics workers.

However, the workers only receive a monthly salary ranging from P3,000 to P5,000, depending on the length of their stay at the company. They are not issued any payslip and only receive half of their 13th month pay. They have no employment contract. The workers were not enrolled with SSS, PhilHealth and PagIbig but the owner brings them to the hospital or clinic if they were sick.

They usually work from 8:00 A.M. to 8:00 P.M., with an hour break (12:00 P.M. to 1:00 P.M.) and a 30-minute afternoon break (3:30 P.M. to 4:00 P.M.). They were not given overtime pay, premium for work rendered during rest days, regular, and special holidays.

The workers are also not allowed to leave the building premises. They are only allowed to go on rest day three times a year, but with a designated companion and a service vehicle. Workers are also allowed to go on vacation for a month or two months, with paid two-way plane ticket.

End/rhev

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