Greenhills hostage-taking incident can be a ‘wake-up call’ for employers

March 3, 2020 - 5:48 PM
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Alchie Paray arrested by police
Alchie Paray, the gunman and former security guard who took dozens hostage inside a mall, is arrested by police in San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines, March 2, 2020. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)

The hostage-taking incident by a disgruntled former security guard of a mall in San Juan City prompted questions on issues over labor practices and the conditions of the working class.

Armed suspect identified as Alchie Paray held hostage 30 people in V-Mall or Virra Mall and shot his fellow security personnel in a nine-hour siege due to alleged labor malpractices.

At a 20-minute “press conference” after he freed the hostages, Paray alleged that there are bribery and corruption among the malls’ security officials and its tenants.

He also claimed that his fellow security guards were laid off for no reason.

Paray claimed he never planned on hurting anyone but he only wanted his concerns to be heard as he complained about mistreatment against him and other employees.

“Dahil kami siguro gwardiya lang,” he said.

San Juan City Mayor Francis Zamora, who served as one of the negotiators, shared that Paray was “upset” when he was fired from his job, an allegation that was refuted by Fernando Solina, the Greenhills’ head of corporate safety.

Solina said a reshuffling of working hours or shifts implemented among security guards affected Paray. He did not want to be reassigned to another post.

The incident prompted labor group Defend Job Philippines to urge public officials, particularly Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III and Zamora, to look into the allegations that Paray raised during his appearance before media.

RELATED: Workers group urges probe into disgruntled guard’s allegations vs security agency

The group cited that investigations should be done about the “alleged mishandling of the security agency and the Greenhills management to their personnel, supposed corruption in the company, alleged illegal termination and inhumane working conditions inside their workplaces.”

The management of Greenhills Shopping Center vowed to look into the grievances that Paray aired.

Wrong method but right to be heard

Social media users also pointed out that the incident is a reflection of how labor conditions of the working class should be improved to avoid a repeat of an “unfortunate situation.”

“Only way to avoid a repeat of this unfortunate situation is to uphold the rights of the working-class by granting them higher wages, improving their working conditions, and to end contractualization,” a Twitter user wrote.

Another Filipino saw the disparity between the businesses’ weekly revenues that come in millions compared to their workers’ condition of job insecurity within the same walls.

“The more shocking, more violent crime is how malls all over our cities can rake in millions in profit every day but thousands of their workers remain contractual. Our security guards, in particular, have one of the most insecure works in the formal economy,” he tweeted.

“This should be a wake up call to all employers. Value and be fair to all employees. Mali ‘yung naging paraan ni Kuya Guard, mali ‘yung nagawa niya at may mali rin ‘yung management. Mali pero masakit, ang sakit lang na kailangan pang humantong sa ganito, mapakinggan lang ‘yung hinaing niya, malalim ‘yung pinaghuhugutan niya,” wrote a Facebook user.

Another Twitter user couldn’t help but notice how some staff of the mall security and mall workers “cheered” while Paray aired his grievances.

“The fact that they cheered. They felt his suffering,” she said.

More protests over labor woes seen

Last January, a coalition of workers said the government should expect more protests as it cited the current administration’s supposed inaction over labor issues like contractualization, underemployment and unemployment, among others.

Pagkakaisa ng Uring Manggagawa said that policies under President Rodrigo Duterte have become a burden to workers and that capitalists have “made a lot of gains against labor.”

During his campaign, Duterte promised to terminate the practice of “endo” or contractual employment the “moment he assumes presidency.”

However, almost three years into office, the president has not yet fulfilled his campaign vow.

In 2019, Duterte vetoed the Security of Tenure Bill, a measure eyed to grant job security to contractual workers and regulate labor contracting.