DAVAO CITY—The BPO Industry Employees Network calls justice for 37 BPO workers who died in the tragic NCCC mall fire. The tragedy happened on the morning of December 23. Most of the victims are employees of Survey Sampling International (SSI), a BPO company located at the 4th floor of the commercial establishment.
BIEN mourns and grieves with the families and friends of the 37 victims. Reports from mainstream media indicate that the employees remained trapped and were unable to evacuate the building due to lack of fire safety precautions. These raise questions on the BPO company’s compliance with occupational safety standards, such as early warning system and prompt evacuation as well as adequate and accessible emergency exits.
BIEN demands justice an immediate, independent and thorough investigation of the tragedy that afflicted the BPO employees and their families. The group lamented that in previous cases of workplace fire leading to massive deaths of workers, including Kentex, HTI, Novo Jeans among others, justice for the victims and their families has been elusive and slow-paced.
“We are very concerned that this might also be the fate of 37 SSI workers. And it is not unlikely that future occupational deaths will continue happen if nobody is penalized in this case,” Mylene Cabalona, Spokesperson of the BPO Industry Employees Network, said during the candle lighting activity held last December 25.
According to a statement BIEN released prior, “we have seen too many similar man-made disasters to our fellow workers in the Philippines alone—Kentex fire in 2015 and HTI fire earlier this 2017 to name a few. What happened in SSI in Davao only shows that even workers in the so-called ‘sunshine industry’ are not free from fatal work hazards. Rather, this gloomy incident only brings attention to the government to look into every BPO company’s compliance with occupational health and safety standards. Justice must be served to the victims and those accountable must be penalized so as to avoid future workplace deaths.”
The group also expressed their support to Senate Bill 1317 imposing criminal and higher penalties to employers who violate OSH standards.