Justice for Kentex Workers! Ensure criminal prosecution of Kentex factory owners! Discharge from post Sec. Baldoz, Roxas, top officials of DOLE, DILG and BFP! Just compensation to Kentex fire victims and workers! Pass Workers SHIELD Bill!
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Justice for Kentex Workers!
A seven-hour blaze gutted the factory of Kentex Manufacturing Inc., maker of rubber sandals that are popular in the Philippines, last May 13, 2015 at Tatalon Street, Barangay Ugong, Valenzuela City. This is the deadliest industrial fire in the history of the Philippines: more than72 workers perished, several others are still missing, and over a hundred more lost their jobs.
The fact-finding mission conducted by labor groups in the Philippines a day after the Kentex tragedy revealed the company’s serious violations of occupational health and safety (OHS) standards. These include the following: mishandling of highly flammable chemicals shown by absence of proper storage and labeling of the latter; absence of fire exits at the second floor; absence of fire alarms and drills; and, with the thick steel mesh that covered the factory’s windows, the virtual imprisonment of workers.
Apart from grave violations of OHS standards, massive violations of basic labor standards by the company were also exposed. The workers who have worked for the company for more than 10 years were receiving only the legally-mandated minimum wage rate. Workers were deprived of regular status even if they have worked in the company for many years. The agency which supplies manpower to Kentex, CJC Manpower Services, repeatedly rehired workers as contractuals and paid the latter a mere P202 a day, way below the P481 minimum wage rate in the National Capital Region. Kentex also employed the piece-rate wage scheme, which is against the law. CJC Manpower Services also failed to remit workers’ contributions to the Social Security System and PhilHealth despite regularly deducting these from the salaries of workers.
The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) did not issue Kentex a Fire Safety Inspection Certificate (FSIC) after conducting an inspection last July 2014 but apparently failed to give appropriate reports to the local government for subsequent action and failed to monitor the factory’s continued operation. Following an inspection on September 18, 2014 the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), by virtue of Department Order (DO) 131-13 or the “Rules on Labor Laws Compliance System” promulgated by Sec. Rosalinda Baldoz, issued Kentex a Certificate of Compliance (COC) with regard to General Labor Standards (GLS) and Occupational Safety and Health (OHS) Standards .
The Kentex tragedy, alongside numerous workplace accidents that claimed the lives of many workers, highlights the abysmal situation of Filipino workers despite the Aquino government’s claim that the country is experiencing economic growth. All of these are brought about by (a) capitalists’ drive to cut costs that compliance with OHS standards entail in order toincrease profits and (2) the government’s implementation of neoliberal labor policies that perpetuate a system that allows hazardous workplaces to exist and create a culture of impunity for past, present and future worker deaths.
Our demands and fight for justice
We support the families of victims of the Kentex fire and the workers who survived the fire, the labor groups, church groups and people’s organizations – all who have come together under the Justice for Kentex Workers Alliance to demand justice for those who died and those who survived.
In particular we call on President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to:
1)Ensure the criminal prosecution of the owners of Kentex Manufacturing Inc. We demand criminal liability from the company owners who, in their desire to increase profits, willfully ignored workers’ health and safety standards, and laid out the conditions that resulted in the death of our loved ones.
2) Immediately discharge from their posts and to ensure criminal prosecution of Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Sec. Rosalinda Baldoz and top officials of the DOLE and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Sec. Mar Roxas and top officials of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) who condoned the operation of a factory that proved to be fatal to workers.
The connivance of these officials with the capitalists of Kentex sealed the fate of the workers who were killed in the fire. DOLE’s awarding of a COC to Kentex was tantamount to signing the death certificates of the workers who died. They are liable not only for the lives claimed and affected by the Kentex fire, but for all Filipino workers whose lives are imperiled as a result of DOLE’s policies like Department Order (DO) 131-13, which systematizes and legalizes industry self-regulation (instead of strict compliance) to the detriment of workers’ rights and in favor of capitalists’ business interests.
(3) Ensure just compensation for the families and survivors of the Kentex factory fire.
We are also fighting for just compensation for the victims’ families and the survivors. It is only fair that that receive more than the meager compensation mandated by the country’s laws. The said compensation should in fact be increased because Kentex workers were given wages below the legally-mandated minimum and suffered many injustices while working, and working hard, for the company.
(4) Urgent passage of House Bill 4635 or Workers’ SHIELD, sponsored by Gabriela Women’s Partylist which seeks to institutionalize mandatory government inspections of all workplaces, and appropriately penalize violators of basic standards. The Kentex fire highlights the extreme vulnerability of Filipino workers because of the government’s skewed priorities favoring business over labor, and the passage of HB 4635 would be a major step forward towards the reaffirmation of the sanctity of workers’ lives.
Justice for Kentex Workers!
Justice for Kentex Workers Alliance is composed of families of victims and worker-survivors of the Kentex factory fire as well as the following support organizations: Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Standard (IOHSAD), Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), Church-People Worker Solidarity (CWS) Defend Jobs Philippines, Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER), Gabriela, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU).
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