By Maricar Cinco, Inquirer Southern Luzon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:30:00 09/10/2010
Filed Under:
Labor, Health and Safety at Work

ROSARIO, Cavite—Alex Secoya’s two-month stint at the factory left him with a fractured nose bridge, a swollen face, six stitches on his left arm and a fractured rib bone.

He said he would have wanted to return to work if the company had not fired him after the accident.

Secoya, 26, was hired in May as a night-shift production operator at Elin-CQS Steel Corp.

On July 9, he was stationed at the press machine, where 20 to 30 kilos of steel are loaded and compressed.

“The machine suddenly conked out and the metal pieces flew and hit me,” he recalled.

Smashed face

Secoya passed out when a metal piece he described to be as large as a basin hit him on the face.

When he regained consciousness minutes later and cried for help from the dimly lit production area, he said one came up and told him his face was smashed.

It took an hour before Secoya, soaked in metal grease and his own blood, was brought to the hospital that was only about ten minutes away.

He said the company did not have a driver.Secoya was confined for a few days until the company ordered that he be discharged.

“The doctor advised me to stay a little longer since my face was still swollen that I still could not even see with my left eye. But the company said they would not pay for my hospital bills anymore,” he said.

Secoya, who finished high school in Zamboanga del Norte, found jobs in factories at the Cavite Economic Zone Authority (Ceza) here.

He lives with his wife and 3-year-old daughter in a makeshift room, with a bathroom they share with other tenants, and can hardly pay for the monthly rent of P1,800.

“I had worked for several companies at Ceza before. I had finished my contracts for as long as two years. It was just here that I met an accident,” he said.

He had not fully recovered yet when the company called for him and offered him P5,500 for the CT scan and P4,000.

“I may not be good at English but I knew I read it right. They wanted me to sign some documents that if I did, would mean they would not renew my contract and I would have nothing more to claim from them,” he said.

Secoya, who lived by a daily wage of P315, refused the money and instead filed complaints for illegal dismissal and moral and actual damages at the Department of Labor and later, at the National Labor Relations Commission.

“The company wanted me to withdraw the case. They said they have their lawyer, while I could not get any. But if I withdraw it, what would happen to me next? It would be hard for me now to find another job (because of the accident),” he said.

On Aug. 26, another worker, Ruben Ledesma, a line leader, was killed after the machine again conked out.

“He was standing in front of the (steel) grinder. The metal scraps from the broken machine behind him flew and a piece, weighing about 20 kilograms, hit and fractured his skull. He was leaned over the grinder so his stomach was sliced,” said Secoya.

The Cavite Workers’ Assistance Center (WAC), a nongovernment organization, said it had received reports of several accidents at Elin-CQS Steel Corp.

“Several workers lost their fingers. Some accidentally dropped loads of metal, hitting their toes. Others were pinned under the machines,” said WAC chair Merly Grafe.

Secoya said just in June, nine of his colleagues met an accident.

“The problem is the lack of safety gears. Although the company advises the wearing of protective gears, the management does not strictly enforce it,” said Grafe.

Secoya said the workers are asked to wear safety shoes with metal toes, but these are only for the regular employees, who comprise only less than half of the work population. They were also asked to wear arm covers but they would buy them for P35.

No comment

“We are encouraging those who had accidents to speak out. Most of them are afraid to talk because the company might fire them,” said Grafe.

Reached by phone on Thursday, human resource manager Lennie Condol refused to comment on Ledesma’s case, but said the company was talking with the victim’s family.

In the case of Secoya, “That is already in the court. But I can assure you there’s no truth to that,” she said.


Note: Correction for the name of the company involved, Enlin CQS, Steel Corp. ; Merly Grafe is the Chairperson of Solidarity of Cavite Workers (SCW), a workers’ alliance in the province of Cavite.