Recent earthquakes in various parts of the Philippines did not only put to test the country’s disaster-preparedness measures, but also revealed how some private companies neglected the safety of their workers.
SM Supermalls, which is known for its widespread contractualization, anti-women working policies and unfair labor practices, recently drew flak for not allowing its sales workers to leave their posts during the earthquake. An unverified social media post also claimed that the mall’s Human Resources officers were likewise prohibited from leaving the office during the 6.1-magnitude earthquake.
In a statement, SM claimed that they ‘implement periodic disaster preparedness programs to train their employees not to panic, in times of crisis’, emphasizing that the ‘safety and well-being of their customers will always be their utmost priority’.
“This gross neglect of workers’ safety is not only inhumane, but also a violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Standards (OSHS) law. SM should be held accountable for violating the law,” CWR executive director Jojo Guan says.
Guan adds that SM did not make them less guilty, instead it only confirmed how greedy and profit-driven SM malls are.
“The recent earthquakes exposed how SM management treat their workers poorly. SM workers are human beings who have families and loved ones who worry about them, not robots who are dispensable,” Guan laments.
The CWR has covered several protests against the SM Management in the past. In 2003, its union Sandigan ng mga Manggagawa sa Shoemart led another massive labor strike in several SM branches in Metro Manila. However, after the dispersal of picket lines, the situation worsened for the workers.
Currently, the SM management continues unfair labor practices and busts independent and assertive workers’ union in SM. Further, the inhumane working conditions at SM malls put the health of workers, especially women who are the majority of workers in malls, at a high risk. Worse, these workers who are overworked and underpaid do not receive any medical benefits from SM management and are not entitled to paid sick leaves.
While SM workers continue to struggle against the labor violations and endure being slaves of SM Empire, the wealth of the Sy family has skyrocketed immeasurably and SM malls expanded intensely. As of November 2018, there are 72 SM malls in the Philippines and seven SM malls in China.