Mindanao fish canneries owe workers P53M—DOLE

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/21 June)—Several fish processing companies in Mindanao found to have violated labor standards were ordered to pay their workers benefits amounting to P52.9 million.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said in a statement released by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Region 12 here that the agency conducted a rapid audit on fish canning companies in the island to ensure the rights and safety of their workers.

“A total of 14,635 workers of 17 fish canning companies in Mindanao, specifically in Regions 9 and 12, will benefit from the Department of Labor and Employment’s rapid audit,” she said.

DOLE’s Bureau of Working Conditions (BWC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Center conducted the audit recently.

“We wanted to ensure that our workers receive the benefits due them and that no labor standards and occupational safety and health standards are being violated, and to ensure that the workers are safe while performing their tasks at work,” Baldoz said.

“Most importantly, we would also like to assist these companies on how to voluntarily comply with labor laws,” she added.

Baldoz said that 10 fish canneries in Zamboanga City in Region 9 and seven others in General Santos City in Region 12 were audited to determine the level of compliance of these companies to general labor standards and occupational safety and health rules.

The BWC initially reported that nine fish canning companies have committed labor standards violations such as non-payment of holiday pays, overtime pay, rest day pay and service incentive leave pay, underpayment of COLA or Cost of Living Allowance, unauthorized wage deductions and inefficient recordkeeping of employment-related documents, according to the statement.

Two companies have been identified violating provisions on the wage of piece-rate workers, payments of night shift differential, anti-child labor law and non-coverage of social welfare benefits, it added.

On safety and health standards, the initial audit report revealed that some fish canning companies also failed to comply with some of the occupational safety and health requirements such as the establishment of safety and health committees at the workplace, employment of an accredited safety and health personnel, provision of adequate personal protective equipment, and administrative reporting to the DOLE, the statement said.

Baldoz did not identify the erring companies, however.

She said that the DOLE offices in Regions 9 and 12 are assisting the companies to effect corrections of the findings and to immediately facilitate the award of the monetary benefits amounting to P52.9 million due to the affected workers of the companies found to have committed the violations.

Baldoz said that representatives of the fish canning companies, during the exit conference with the DOLE, have signified their willingness to restitute their violations on labor laws and safety and health standards.

She said they also committed to submit to the DOLE their respective action plans specifying their time frames and over-all course of action in correcting their identified violations. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)