Special Sunday Mass for the Victims of the Kentex Fire,
Dialogue with Survivors and Relatives

 

Video Clips

San Juan de la Cruz Parish, Ugong, Valenzuela
 

May 17,  2015

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Victims for identification by relatives
Photo by Jun Santiago/Tudla Productions. More photos here
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Photos Photos by Arkibong Bayan, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Jun Santiago and Tudla
as indicated by the filenames
           
     
JUSTICE FOR KENTEX WORKERS was formed after survivors and relatives held a dialogue among themselves
and with various representatives from Gabriela, KMU, PCPR, Hustisya and BAYAN
     

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On the Kentex Factory Fire

Statement of the fact-finding team

16 May 2015

 

Seventy-two (72) workers, many of whom were women, were burned to death and 20 more are still missing in the biggest factory fire that hit the Philippines – the fire that gutted the factory of Kentex Manufacturing Incorporated last May 13, 2015. The company, located along Tatalon Street in Barangay Ugong in Valenzuela City, manufactures rubber slippers for sale and distribution in various parts of the Philippines.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz claimed that the factory passed an inspection on compliance with general labor standards and occupational health and safety standards that was conducted by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on September 2014.  The Bureau of Fire Protection reportedly also gave the factory a fire safety inspection certification.

Kentex 3However, the fact-finding team which was composed of labor NGOs namely, the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER), and the Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (IOHSAD), and the national labor center of Kilusang Mayo Uno, which visited the area on May 14, found glaring violations of standards pertaining to general labor conditions and to occupational health and safety. It is most likely that these violations caused the tragic and massive loss of lives in the recent fire.

These violations include:

→ Mishandling of the chemical Super Seal, which is used as a rubber emulsifier. Survivors of the fire whom the Team interviewed said that the fire started on the ground floor of the two-storey building when the welding spatter from roll up door being repaired by an outside contractor reacted with the chemical that wasunsafely placed on the factory’s floor and was not kept in a separate and safe stockroom.
 

This clearly violates Rule 1943.07 on storage of the  Occupational Safety and Health Standards of 1989. The Rule provides that “(1) Significant quantities of commodities with fire hazards greater than ordinary combustible commodities shall be separated from the main bulk by fire walls.”


→ Absence of proper labeling and awareness of the nature of the said chemical. Workers, including the welder who was fixing the gate of the factory compound, were not aware that the chemical is highly flammable as it was not properly labeled. Survivors also said that when smoke started to rise from the sacks of the chemical where the welding spatter fell, there were workers who poured water, which only caused the fire to become bigger. The fire was already huge when the workers attempted to put it off by using the fire extinguisher. Immediately after using the fire extinguisher, they were immediately engulfed by black smoke.


Absence of proper labeling violates Rule 1093.04 on Marking of Containers which requires “All containers with hazardous substances shall be properly labelled. No employer … shall accept any container of hazardous substances for use, handling or storage unless such containers are labelled.”

→ Absence of proper smoke and fire alarm and apparent absence of fire and safety drill among the workers. Survivors also noted that even when the ground floor was already filled with smoke, workers in the assembly line and the office staff at the second floor still continued working. They said the fire spread so quickly that they were trapped inside and there was no other way for them to go out except through the main door. They also recounted that they heard no fire alarm. They also claimed that workers in the second floor of the building were trapped as it was impossible for them to go through the door with such a strong fire coming from the building entrance. Workers who had been working for years in Kentex have not experienced any fire and safety drill conducted by the management. When asked about the Safety Officer, workers interviewed did not know if there was one.


These are clear violations of Rules on alarm and fire drills. Rule 1948.01 states that “(1) All buildings having two or more stories in height shall be equipped with fire alarm system and signals of distinctive quality and pitch clearly audible to all persons inside the building.” Rule on 1948.03 requires that “(1) Fire-exit drills shall be conducted at least twice a year  to maintain an orderly evacuation of buildings, unless the local fire department requires a higher frequency of fire drills.”

→ Absence of fire exits. The factory compound had NO fire exits and there were only two gates, one is for people and the other is for delivery trucks. The factory windows are covered with steel grills and chicken wire which could not easily be destroyed even during emergencies. Witnesses said that workers at the second floor attempted to break the windows open until they could no longer be seen from the outside. Workers who were able to escape the compound even had to climb the walls at the back as the gate for delivery trucks was locked. Out of the more than 70 workers on the second floor, only four workers escaped by squeezing themselves through an opening and jumping out of the building.


Rule 1943.03 requires “(1)  At least two exits shall be provided in every floor and basement of every workplace capable of clearing the work area in five (5) minutes,” and “(6) On every floor, except the ground floor, one of the exits shall lead to an inside stairway or a smokeproof tower, while the other exits shall lead to inside stairways, smoke-proof towers or horizontal exits.”

With all these glaring and clear OHS violations of Kentex Manufacturing, how did the Department of Labor and Employment release an OHS compliance certificate to Kentex in year 2014? How can the lack of fire exits inside the workplace premise pass the evaluation conducted by DOLE inspectors? If these were pointed out during that inspection, corrective measures could have been implemented to ensure occupational safety of workers in Kentex and evade the loss of lives. The issuance of DOLE to Kentex Manufacturing, an OHS standards violator, as complying to OHS standards, makes DOLE primarily accountable to the deaths of the 72 workers in this tragedy. DOLE failed its role in ensuring that workers are protected and their lives are safe and secure inside the workplace.

Working conditions

Kentex Manufacturing Corporation is owned by Mr. Beato Ang and Mr. Ong King Guan.   Apart from the clear violations of occupational health and safety standards, worker survivors in Kentex also reported violations of general labor standards, contrary to the claims made by the Labor Department.

Only workers who served for 20-25 years in the company are considered “regular” workers, while those who have been working for an average of 10 years are considered “casual” workers. These regular and casual workers comprise a minority of the workforce and receive only the minimum wage despite having worked for the company for many years. Workers say that the union is a “company union” with around 30 members.

There are more than 100 workers out of the less than 200 workers who were hired by the CGC agency and were receiving only a daily wage of P202 plus P187 to P220 daily allowance, depending on the number of years of service. Agency workers also complain that they discovered that the CGC agency did not remit their SSS, Philhealth and PAG-IBIG contributions and that whenever they complain, the agency would only return their contributions instead of enrolling them in the said mandatory social benefits.

Workers also complain that they have to bear the heat inside the factory during work hours as there is no proper ventilation in the factory. They claim that they get tired of work not because of the heavy workload but because of the heat inside the factory premises.

Apart from the daily-paid casual workers who were hired by the manpower agency, there were also workers who were hired on “pakyawan” or piece-rate basis. These workers work for 12 hours a day without formal contract. Mary Ann Tenis, 30 years old and a single parent of three children, was one of the victims. Her youngest was just nine-month old, according to a friend who was waiting for news about her friend. Tenis had worked for Kentex for five months and was hired as a piece-rate worker.


Almost an entire family was burned to death, with both parents working for Kentex and their three high-school children taking a summer job in the factory. The tragedy orphaned a child enrolled in primary school.

The victims’ families say that they lost their loved ones and their bread winners in the fire. They are pained by their relatives’ death and they are pained by the difficulty in identifying the bodies of their loved ones and giving them a proper burial. They are anxious about what the future holds, thinking of how they can support family members who were left behind.

Call for justice, criminalization of violations that result in deaths

We mourn the death of scores of workers in Kentex and we express our deepest condolences to their families, friends and co-workers. We connect their unjust death with the tragedies that also claimed the lives of 11 construction workers in Bulacan, 8 female workers of AsiaTech in Pasay, 10 construction workers in Eton Towers, and 17 women workers at Novo in Butuan. Many had died but no one had been prosecuted or held criminally liable, constituting impunity in industrial safety.

Successive occupational accidents leading to deaths of workers only prove that existing policies and rules on occupational health and safety standards continue to fail in protecting workers and avoiding tragic accidents. Even the joint assessment and tripartite monitoring system mandated by DOLE Order No. 131-13 that superseded DO 57-04 – which was much-criticized as for promoting companies’ “self-assessment” with regard to occupational health and safety standards – apparently fall short in ensuring that factories and workplaces comply with occupational health and safety standards.

Workers’ safety and health cannot be left to the mercy of companies’ self-regulation or voluntary compliance. Workers’ basic rights to occupational health and safety should not be hinged on companies’ voluntarism but rather on strict enforcement by the government. From this perspective, it is justifiable to claim that DO 131-13 is in essence the same as DO 57-04, except that it uses the rhetoric of tripartism. It still still about the government’s abnegation of its regulatory responsibility. With the lack of genuine workers’ representation through a legitimate and independent union, and with the government working in cahoots with employers, tripartism from this end is nothing but hollow mechanism that masks employers’ sole power in the workplace.

Let not the tragedies in Kentex, Novo Jeans, Eton, among others happen again and claim the lives of more workers. Thus, we demand:

(1) Hold the DOLE and the Bureau of Fire Protection who gave the company compliance certification accountable for the factory fire and deaths of almost a hundred workers and employees. Investigate the process of inspection for the issuance of compliance certification of Kentex. Impose criminal and administrative penalties/charges (?) to key DOLE officials in-charge of the issuance of the compliance certificate.
(2) The imposition of criminal and administrative penalties on Veato Ang et al., owner of Kentex, and all owners of companies who have clearly violated occupational health and safety standards that resulted in the death of workers.

(3) Just compensation for the families of victims, proper benefits for workers who lost their jobs after the fire, and long-term support for orphaned children.

(4) Repeal of DO 131-13 and immediate passage House Bill 4635 or Workers’ SHIELD  (Safety and Health Inspection and Employers’ Liability Decree) that will make violations of occupational health and safety standards both criminal and administrative offenses, while providing victims avenues for justice.

We call on the families of victims of Kentex accident to rise up and demand justice for their loved ones. We also call on the people to demand justice for Kentex workers and all other victims of occupational accidents by joining the national day of mourning on Monday, 18 May 2015.

 

Officiating priest with the relatives of the Kentex fire victims
     
 
     
Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus and PCPR's Nardy Sabino
     
     
     

Justice for Kentex workers and other victims of OHS Standards violations!
Strict Enforcement of Occupational Health and Safety Standards, not Joint Assessment or Self-Regulations!

Hold DOLE accountable for the Kentex Tragedy! 
Penalize and criminalize the violators of Occupational Health and Safety Standards!
End impunity of OHS violations in the Philippines!

Repeal DO 131-13! Pass Workers SHIELD!
Struggle against Contractualization! Workers fight for Wages, Jobs and Rights!

Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development
Center for Trade Union and Human Rights
Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research
Kilusang Mayo Uno

 
           
     
  Media interviews  

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International Release

15 May 2015

 

International group hits Aquino for sweatshop fire deaths

 

MANILA.  The Philippines chapter of the International League of Peoples' Struggle (ILPS-Phils) blamed the Aquino government for the death of 72 workers in the fire that broke out at a local sweatshop factory in Valenzuela City yesterday.

 

As the ILPS-Phils commiserates with the victims' kin, it warned of a "cover-up" in the on-going investigation on who is primarily responsible for their deaths.

 

"Full accountability rests on Pres. Benigno Aquino III and his local government secretary Mar Roxas commanding the inept and corrupt Bureau of Fire Protection, together with the Department of Labor executing pro-capitalist employment policies for these deaths in the workplace," ILPS-Phils Chair Elmer Labog said.

 

The group said that the issue is beyond occupational health and safety. The fire disaster, one of the deadliest on record in the country, is "an accident waiting to happen."

 

"This is because of the prevalent sweatshops conditions under neoliberal policies implemented assiduously by Pres. Aquino. Factory-level cost-cutting, wage-freeze policies, contractual labor and continuing government corruption worsened the calamity that befell these workers."

 

"It happened in Bangladesh, it is happening in the Philippines," the ILPS-Phils said.

 

A factory fire in Butuan City killed 17 workers in 2012 and eight more this year at the Asia Micro Tech factory in Pasay City.

 

"Workers lives matter," the group said.

 

"The demand for full investigation into the Valenzuela fire by opportunist labor groups Nagkaisa, including the ALU-TUCP, BMP, FFW and NCL, is but a lame ambulance-chasing scheme to cover-up for the government's criminal neglect of workers and for their own self-serving economic and political gains," it said.

 

The ILPS-Phils supports the workers' own collective assertion of their right to occupational health and safety as part of their struggle against capitalist exploitation and emancipation from sweatshop conditions.

 

It calls on workers and supporters around the world to extend immediate relief to the victims' families and campaign to hold Aquino accountable for the sweatshop deaths.###
 

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I L P S   
Philippine Chapter

Office Address:
2/F IBON Center, 114 Timog Avenue 
Quezon City 1103,  PHILIPPINES
Tel: +63 2  9277062
E-mail: 
ilps.phils@gmail.com

Website: www.ilps-phils.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ILPSPhils

Twitter: www.twitter.com/ILPS_Phils

 

     
     

BAYAN SecGen Renato Reyes and a relative whose mother,
sister and aunt died in the Kentex fire
           
     
  Mother of a victim  
     

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 PRESS STATEMENT

 15 May 2015

Reference: Nadia De Leon, IOHSAD Advocacy Officer, 0917-6252919 


Prosecute the owners of Kentex Manufacturing!

Criminalize violations of OHS Standards!

 

Violations of occupational health and safety standards committed by the management of Kentex Manufacturing, Inc. caused the death of the workers in the deadly fire in Valenzuela City last Wednesday.  A total of  72 workers died and several others are still missing . It should be noted that  69  workers met their death in the second floor of the building.
 

Based on accounts of the workers who survived the fire tragedy and as seen in the appearance of the burned structure, occupational safety standards were clearly violated.  The management of Kentex Manufacturing did not comply with major provisons of Rule 1940 or the Fire Protection and Control Rule 1940 of the Occupational Safety and Health Standards of 1989.


A)    
Absence of proper fire exits in the building.  This is a clear violation of  the provisions of Rule 1943.03 which state:


(1)  At least two exits shall be provided in every floor and basement of every workplace capable of clearing the work area in five (5) minutes.


(6) On every floor, except the ground floor, one of the exits shall lead to an inside stairway or a smokeproof tower, while the other exits shall lead to inside stairways, smoke-proof

towers or horizontal exits.

 

B)    Kentex workers who survived the factory fire said that containers of newly-delivered flammable chemicals (Superseal) were not stored properly and were placed in the vicinity where the welding was being done.  This  is a clear violation of  the provisions of Rule 1943.07  on storage:

 

(1) Significant quantities of commodities with fire hazards greater than ordinary combustible commodities shall be separated from the main bulk by fire walls.

 

C)    Kentex workers claimed that there were no recent fire drills done in the workplace. This is a clear violation of Rule 1948.03:

 

(1) Fire-exit drills shall be conducted at least twice a year  to maintain an orderly evacuation of buildings, unless the local fire department requires a higher frequency of fire drills.

 

According to the statement released by Department of Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, “Kentex Manufacturing has been found to be compliant with general labor standards and occupational safety and health standards after a joint assessment by our Labor Laws Compliance Officers under the new Labor Laws Compliance System”.  The tragic death of the 72 Kentex workers  is more than enough proof  that the labor laws compliance  inspection being implemented by  the DOLE is erroneous,  unreliable and questionable.

 

The Labor Department has continuously bragged about the new Labor Laws Compliance Sytem being implemented since 2013 as “one of its kind” and that the Philippines is “one of the first to adopt the innovative approach for improving compliance with labor laws”.  Workplace accidents and workers’ deaths show the exact opposite of DOLE’s boastful claims. Since its implementation, major workplace accidents including the fire tragedy in Kentex factory have occurred: (a) fire tragedy in Asiatech warehouse in Pasay in 2014 (8 female workers dead), (b) collapse of building in a warehouse construction in Bulacan in Januay 2015 (12 dead) ;  (c) construction site accident in BGC in February 2015 (2 dead).

 

The new Labor Laws Compliance System being implemented by the DOLE is contained in Department Order 131-13 which aims to “inculcate and foster a culture of voluntary compliance, where there is less government intervention, and there is more workers’ and employers’ active participation in the plant-level.”  This “tripartite” approach to labor laws compliance particularly on occupational safety standards has resulted in more  injuries and deaths among workers and employers’ continuous violations of OHS standards. Workers’ lives, health and safety should not be anchored in the trust given by the Labor Department to company managements. Employers cannot be expected to voluntarily comply and report their violations of safety standards.

 

We call for the mandatory, strict and frequent safety inspection by the Labor Department of all establishments.  The inspection should be done through unannounced visits of labor inspectors to prevent companies from concealing safety standards violations. Results of the inspection should be published immediately and must be presented and approved by the general assembly of workers.

 

We condemn the Labor Department’s silence and lack of concrete steps to make the employers accountable for the lives of the Kentex workers.  Claims and promises of “social and labor justice” to be given to the workers are grave insults to the grieving families who seek justice for their loved ones. 

 

We call on the Labor Department to immediately release the results of the inspections done on Kentex Manufacturing, investigate the labor laws compliance officer (LLCO) who performed the inspection and most especially file concrete criminal charges against the Kentex management.

 

We reiterate our call for the immediate passage of House Bill 4635 or Worker’s SHIELD (Safety and Health Inspection and Employer’s Liability Decree) that seeks the Labor Department’s mandatory inspection of all establishments and the criminalization of violations of OHS standards. The criminalization of OHS violations will definitely contribute to pushing companies to comply with health and safety laws.  If the law is approved, employers who are proven guilty will not only pay penalties to the state but will be meted out appropriate criminal obligations based on the gravity of their violation.

 

We call on the government to resolutely act and put an end to the continuous neglect of our workers’ right to life. We appeal to all legislators to immediately pass House Bill 4635 and shield our workers from unsafe working conditions and deadly occupational hazards.

 

Justice for Kentex workers!

Pass House Bill 4635 or Worker’s SHIELD!

Safe working conditions for Filipino workers!

*******************************************************

Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development
406 Ramagi Building, 1081 Pedro Gil Avenue
Paco 1007, Manila, Philippines
+ 63 2 521 1216

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  KMU's Nitz Gonzaga  
     
     
     
           
     
     
     

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Press Statement
14 May 2015

Justice for the workers of Kentex!
Justice for Filipino workers!

We express our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of the workers of Kentex Manufacturing Incorporated who died in a factory fire yesterday. We are one with you in mourning the untimely and unjust deaths of our fellow workers. 

Latest reports say that 35 workers died, while 65 workers went missing in the fire along Tatalon Street in Barangay Ugong, Valenzuela City. We are calling for an immediate and full accounting of the names of the workers who died in the accident. 

Our hearts are crying out for justice for the workers of Kentex. Not a single worker should die in the workplace, even when a fire breaks out. The number of workers who died and the number of workers who went missing clearly indicate that occupational health and safety standards have been violated by the capitalists of Kentex. We demand their immediate prosecution for this crime.

This is not the first factory fire which killed many workers under the government of Pres. Noynoy Aquino. Last May 9, 2012, 17 workers of Novo Jeans and Shorts in Butuan City died when a fire broke out. Last April 30, 2014, eight workers of Asia Micro Tech in Pasay City died when a fire broke out. This is also not the first time that workers were killed at the workplace. More than 40 construction workers have died under the Aquino government. 

We are revolted that not a single capitalist has been judged guilty and jailed for the massacre of workers in the workplace under the Aquino government. We are calling for justice for all the workers who died in the workplace. We are calling for the criminalization of violations of occupational health and safety standards that result in workers’ deaths. 

We are aghast that Department of Labor and Employment Order No. 131-13 titled “Rules on Labor Laws Compliance System” declares that it aims to foster “a culture of voluntary compliance with labor laws” while further decreasing government responsibility for the upholding of occupational health and safety standards. It invokes “tripartism” in the means to uphold health and safety in the workplace in order to cover up the naked power that capitalists wield in the workplace. 

We are calling on Filipino workers to unite and fight for the upholding of occupational health and safety, as well as for other fundamental workers’ rights. Let us form genuine, militant and nationalist labor unions so we fight for our rights which are ultimately about our very lives. 

Reference: Lito Ustarez, KMU vice-chairperson, 0908-6491992
 

     
           
   
     
           

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Press Release
May 15, 2015


Nasaan ang pangulo?

Aquino hit for 'lack of empathy' for Kentex workers


Youth group Anakbayan today assailed President Benigno Aquino for his "no-show" and "lack of empathy" for the Kentex workers and their families. Seventy two workers died and 20 are missing in the fire which broke out last May 13 in Valenzuela, said to be the highest number of deaths in a factory fire in the country's history.

"The president is quick to show up for big capitalists, but has not even issued a statement to express his sympathy with the families of the workers who died. This shows his utter lack of compassion for workers and for the poor," said Vencer Crisostomo, national chairperson of Anakbayan.

Crisostomo said this is in contrast with Aquino's "agad-agad" presence in the SM "martilyo gang" incident and Serendra blast.

"Instead of joining calls for justice, DOLE and the Palace spokesmen issued statements leading to a whitewash of the owner's and the government's accountability in the tragedy. The company and DOLE obviously violated labor standards and safety regulations while government covered up for them by echoing statements saying they 'complied' with standards," he said.

He was referring to Palace spokesman Sonny Coloma and DOLE secretary Rosalinda Baldoz who were quoted saying the company was complying with labor rules and standards.

"DOLE and Aquino's anti-worker, pro-capitalist policies like low wages, flexible labor and lack of strict labor standards has brought tragedy to the lives of workers. There should be an independent investigation into why DOLE has allowed the factory to continue operation despite its not having a fire exit, non-adherence to proper health and safety standards, and violations of labor standards like the minimum wage," he said.

Crisostomo said workers groups, together with the relatives of the victims are launching a ‪#‎JusticeForKentexWorkers campaign to call for the prosecution of the capitalists and DOLE officials responsible, proper compensation for the families and the junking of Aquino's government's anti-worker policies.

Reference: Vencer Crisostomo,@venzie 09399207114
 

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KILLER FIRE HAPPENED IN WORLD BANK-ENDORSED 'BUSINESS-FRIENDLY' CITY

The demise of 72 Kentex workers in a Valenzuela fire brought to fore the case of labor rights violations in a reputed business-friendly environment, research group IBON said.

IBON pointed out that Philippine economic policy's "business friendly" concept has meant creating an environment conducive to business profit-maximization, but not to workers and their welfare. This includes implementing flexible labor schemes, pegging low wages, and violating safety procedures in the work place.

In its 'Doing Business in the Philippines'  2011 report, the World Bank cited Valenzuela as one of the most business-friendly cities in the Philippines for ranking consistently in starting a business, registering property and dealing with construction permits.

Valenzuela City was also chosen as 'most business-friendly' highly-urbanized city by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industries (PCCI) in October 2014 for being 'successful at creating an environment that is conducive to business.  Also last year, the city placed second in the government/ evacuation center category of the Liveable Cities Design Challenge (LCDC) organized by the National Competitiveness Council and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). 

Yet initial reports confirmed that while their jobs involved close contact with chemicals, the dozens of Kentex workers who perished in the fire wore no protective gear, in violation of occupational safety and health standards. The victims were also trapped in the second floor of the factory, the windows of which were secured with iron grills. Factory premises also lacked sufficient fire exits.

Survivors also attest that many Kentex workers were contractual, meaning that they do not have the social benefits accorded to regulars. Workers who were hired on output basis ('pakyawan'), meanwhile, had no records in the company, which means that management has no accountability toward them.

IBON likened the boosting of Valenzuela's image by international and local finance and business outfits to the Philippine 'Asia's next miracle' hype being pushed by the same groups. It is meant to attract investments and boost profit-seeking ventures at the expense of public welfare, the group said.

With the Department of Labor and Employment's (DOLE) initial pronouncement that Kentex Mfg. Corp. has passed labor standards, IBON urged the department to investigate further and look at other similar cases of workers' rights violations in the country.  Philippine labor law should also be reformed to genuinely look after the interests and welfare of Filipino workers, the group said.  (end)

IBON Foundation, Inc. is an independent development institution established in 1978 that provides research, education, publications, information work and advocacy support on socioeconomic issues. 

Visit www.ibon.org | Follow IBON on Twitter | Follow IBON on Facebook 

 

           
     
 
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Press Statement
15 May 2015

On Baldoz’s statements on the Valenzuela fire

We condemn Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz for her claims in her statement “on the Kentex Manufacturing fire incident” published in the official website of the Aquino government. 

We seriously doubt her claim that “Kentex Manufacturing Corporation has been found to be compliant with general labor standards and occupational safety and health standards” and that the company received a “Certificate of Compliance” on 18 September 2014.

We believe that Baldoz is simply making this up to make it appear that her agency has not been remiss in holding labor inspections. She is also trying to make it appear that the company’s capitalists are not criminally liable for the death of 72 workers. 

Baldoz’s claims are unmasked as lies by initial results of the fact-finding mission undertaken by pro-labor institutions: The company employs more than 100 agency-hired contractuals who receive P202 as daily wage. It is illegal for a company to give contractuals wages less than the legally-mandated minimum. Regular employees who have been working for the company for 20 to 25 years have been receiving the minimum wage. The company’s workers have also often complained of high temperature inside the company’s premises. How can Baldoz claim that Kentex is “compliant with general labor standards”?

Even if Baldoz’s statements are true, the capitalists and the top officials of concerned government agencies should still be held accountable for the crime that led to the death of 72 workers. The death of so many workers shows that the government’s mechanism for labor assessment is seriously flawed and fatal to workers.

We also condemn Baldoz for making it appear that all the victims’ families can look forward to are financial packages from the capitalist and the government. The violation of occupational health and safety standards that led to the death of 72 workers is a crime that deserves criminal punishment. We are calling for nothing less. The workers of Kentex and the Philippines deserve nothing less.

Reference: Lito Ustarez, KMU vice-chairperson, 0908-6491992

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Media Release
16 May 2015

Baldoz immoral for defending Kentex capitalists – KMU 

Reacting to Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz’ statement that the owners of Kentex Manufacturing Incorporated are “immoral,” national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno said that it’s the government official who’s immoral for trying to defend the capitalists in her statement one day after the fire that gutted the factory. 

KMU said that Baldoz also showed no “social responsibility” when she claimed that Kentex “is compliant with general labor standards and occupational health and safety standards” and when her agency gave the company “a Certificate of Compliance on 18 September 2014.”

The labor group cited Baldoz’s first statement after the May 13 fire and is published online in the government’s Official Gazette.

“Baldoz is immoral and shows no social responsibility in trying to defend the capitalists of Kentex and in certifying Kentex’ so-called compliance with labor and safety standards. Her turnaround one day after her first statement cannot erase that fact,” said Lito Ustarez, KMU vice-chairperson.

The labor leader also said that the Certificate of Compliance granted by the DOLE to Kentex is the clearest proof of the agency’s collusion with the capitalists who own the footwear factory. 

“Kentex’ violations of general labor standards and of occupational health and safety standards are most obvious to anyone who would care to see. DOLE’s granting of a Certificate of Compliance to Kentex shows that it turned a blind eye to the company’s grave violations,” Ustarez added. 

Reports state that Kentex did not have fire exits, did not handle the flammable chemical that led to the fire properly, and did not conduct fire drills. These also say that the capitalists of Kentex made the windows in the factory’s second floor unpassable.

News reports also say that Kentex employed contractuals through the “pakyawan” system and gave contractuals a daily wage of P220, less than the P481 legally-mandated minimum wage in Metro Manila.

“The DOLE is immoral and has shown no social responsibility in refusing to implement mandatory inspection of work places and criminalize violations of occupational health and safety standards that result in workers’ deaths. It has colluded with capitalists who violate health and safety standards in the workplace,” Ustarez stated.

Reference: Lito Ustarez, KMU vice-chairperson, 0908-6491992


 

     
     
           
     
     
     

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Media Release
16 May 2015

Workers call for May 18 National Day of Mourning for Kentex 

National labor center Kilusang Mayo called on workers and the public today to mark May 18 as National Day of Mourning for the 72 workers of Kentex Manufacturing Incorporated who perished in the worst factory fire in Philippine history last May 13.

The labor group said the day would be a time for the outpouring of grief for the dead workers, the expression of solidarity with the families who are seeking justice, the call for justice for the dead workers, and the call for safe workplaces for Filipino workers.

KMU noted that the government of Pres. Noynoy Aquino has so far failed to declare such a national day of mourning, and that the chief executive himself has failed to address the nation, let alone speak up, on the issue.

“We are calling on all workers and Filipinos: Let us mark May 18 as our National Day of Mourning for the dead workers of Kentex. We have been grieving and calling for justice in our individual ways since this tragedy happened; now let us grieve and call for justice together,” said Lito Ustarez, KMU vice-chairperson.

The labor leader called on workers and Filipinos to wear black on the day, gather together for rallies, assemblies and masses to share the stories of the Kentex workers, and call for justice for the workers in social media.

He called on all workers to hold “lunch break assemblies” where they can have discussions about the fire at Kentex, call for justice for the victims, and express solidarity with the families of the dead workers.

“Beyond mourning in silence and individually, let us come together and voice out our calls for justice and solidarity. Experience us shows that justice does not come naturally in cases like this and that we have to fight for justice,” Ustarez added.

KMU has said that despite the death of many workers due to capitalists’ violations of occupational health and safety standards, no capitalist has been judged guilty and sent to prison for their crime.

“We are also calling for the release of the names of those who died in the Kentex fire. They are people who have names and their lives matter. Workers and Filipinos want to mourn knowing their names,” Ustarez stated. 

Reference: Lito Ustarez, KMU vice-chairperson, 0908-6491992
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Media Release
17 May 2015

Workers bring Kentex case to the public

Workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno set up an exhibit at the Plaza Miranda this afternoon in order to explain the circumstances surrounding the fire that gutted footwear factory Kentex Manufacturing, Inc. last May 13 as well as the situation of the workers there.

The labor group said it aims to encourage the public to speak up and act in seeking justice for the more than 72 workers who died in the factory fire and the many workers who survived the resulting inferno.

“Many workers have died in the workplace but no one has been found guilty and imprisoned for this crime. That’s why we are calling on workers and the public to speak up and act in seeking justice for the dead and injured workers,” said Lito Ustarez, KMU vice-chairperson.

Just compensation
The labor leader called for just compensation for the victims and survivors of the factory fire, claiming the P13,000 compensation given by the company, even as a first tranche, is insulting to the dead.

“We believe that the government should also step in and compensate the families of the dead and the survivors. After all, the government certified the company’s so-called compliance with occupational health and safety standards,” Ustarez stated.

He was referring to Labor Sec. Rosalinda Baldoz’ claim that her agency granted Kentex a “Certificate of Compliance” last September 18, 2014 with regard to general labor standards and occupational health and safety standards.
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Workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno set up an exhibit at the Plaza Miranda this afternoon in order to explain the circumstances surrounding the fire that gutted footwear factory Kentex Manufacturing, Inc. last May 13 as well as the situation of the workers there.

     

 

No right
 

KMU said that Baldoz has no right to make it appear that she is a neutral mediator in this case and to convene a mandatory conference with the capitalists of Kentex and the management of CJC Manpower Services this Monday.

“What will they be talking about? How to evade responsibility for this crime? Baldoz should not act as if she is a neutral mediator in this case because she has blood in her hands,” Ustarez said.

He also said that the Labor Secretary should be held accountable for allowing Kentex to carry out operations despite the sweatshop conditions obtaining in the factory before the fire. 

Reference: Lito Ustarez, KMU vice-chairperson, 0908-6491992

 

           
     
     

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NEWS RELEASE

15 May 2015

 

For Reference:     REP. LUZVIMINDA C ILAGAN 0920-9213221

REP. EMMI DE JESUS 0917-3221203

Jang Monte (Public Information Officer) 0917-4049119

Oscar Ataderos

 

GABRIELA SOLON DEMANDS SWIFT JUSTICE FOR THE VICTIMS OF VALENZUELA FIRE

 

Gabriela Women's Party Representative Emmi De Jesus joined mourners in offering flowers and lighting candles during a mass celebrated in memory of the 72 workers who perished in the blaze that gutted a slippers factory in Valenzuela.

 

“It pains me to look at pictures of women in anguish: mothers, wives, sisters and that of children crying plastered on television and pages of newspapers following the report of the fire.  Reports also say that many of the victims trapped inside were women”, De Jesus said.
 

She added that past workplace fires and even building collapses victimized women and minors who are forced to live as stay-in workers to squeeze huge amount of profit out of their labor. The fire prevention and labor agencies tasked to ensure safety and check violations, she added, ignored the prison-like architecture of thousands of sweatshops that treat workers as slaves and potential pilferers of goods.

 

"Magkahalong lungkot at poot ang nadarama namin sa Gabriela sapagkat  ang naging biktima ng kapabayaan ng gobyerno sa pagkakataong ito ay mga manggagawang nagsisikap na buhayin ang kanilang pamilya sa gitna ng kadusta-dustang kalagayan sa pagawaan at sa ekonomiya sa pangkabuuan.  At sa kamatayan ng mga manggagawa sa Kentex, may pananagutan ang gobyerno hindi lang dahil sa kapabayaan sa pagpapatupad ng occupational health and safety standards kundi maging sa pagseseguro ng disente at nakabubuhay na trabaho para sa mamamayan," (We in Gabriela feel sadness and wrath because this time the victims government neglect are workers who try so hard to give their family a decent life in the midst of abject labor conditions and the persisting economic crisis.  In the death of the Kentex workers, the government is liable not only for the deaths accruing from government's negligence in implementing occupational health safety standards but more so because of its inutility to provide decent jobs for the people,) De Jesus said.

 

The Gabriela Solon once more called on the House Committee on Labor and Employment to wake up and immediately call for hearings on the "Workers' SHIELD" bill that the partylist filed last year to get a clear picture on how factory conditions even worsened under the Aquino administration. ###

 

Members of Bayan Metro Manila lighted candles in front of the burnt Kentex factory in Valenzuela City. They were joined by families of the fire victims and residents from nearby communities.

The group and families call for justice for the victims of the tragedy
Photos by Tudla Productions

     

Workers group express sympathy for the victims of Kentex factory in Valenzuela
May 14, 2015  Photo by Tudla Productions
           
     
  Photo by Jun Santiago/Tudla Productions  
     

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Migrante Austria
 

Justice for the workers of Kentex! Justice for Filipino workers!

We express our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of the workers of Kentex Manufacturing Incorporated who died in a factory fire yesterday. We are one with you in mourning the untimely and unjust deaths of our fellow workers.

The official death count stopped at 72. Others went missing in the fire along Tatalon Street in Barangay Ugong, Valenzuela City. We are calling for an immediate and full accounting of the names of the workers who died in the accident.

Our hearts are crying out for justice for the workers of Kentex. Not a single worker should die in the workplace, even when a fire breaks out. The number of workers who died and the number of workers who went missing clearly indicate that occupational health and safety standards have been violated by the capitalists of Kentex. We demand their immediate prosecution for this crime.

This is not the first factory fire which killed many workers under the government of Pres. Noynoy Aquino. Last May 9, 2012, 17 workers of Novo Jeans and Shorts in Butuan City died when a fire broke out. Last April 30, 2014, eight workers of Asia Micro Tech in Pasay City died when a fire broke out. This is also not the first time that workers were killed at the workplace. Many construction workers have died under the Aquino government.

We are revolted that not a single capitalist has been judged guilty and jailed for the massacre of workers in the workplace under the Aquino government. We are calling for justice for all the workers who died in the workplace. We are calling for the criminalization of violations of occupational health and safety standards that result in workers’ deaths.

We are aghast that Department of Labor and Employment Order No. 131-13 titled “Rules on Labor Laws Compliance System” declares that it aims to foster “a culture of voluntary compliance with labor laws” while further decreasing government responsibility for the upholding of occupational health and safety standards. It invokes “tripartism” in the means to uphold health and safety in the workplace in order to cover up the naked power that capitalists wield in the workplace.

We are calling on Filipino workers to unite and fight for the upholding of occupational health and safety, as well as for other fundamental workers’ rights. Let us form genuine, militant and nationalist labor unions so we can fight for our rights which are ultimately about our very lives.

 

Relatives of Kentex factory fire victims wait in line to view the bodies hoping they will be able to identify their loved ones. According to Valenzuela City's PIO, the bodies are beyond recognition. Blood samples from the victims' relatives are taken for DNA testing to be able to identify the bodies.
Photos by Jun Santiago/Tudla Productions  May 14

           
     
     
     

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Press Statement

May 15, 2015


The Kentex Fire burning legacy


At first glance, it seems that the fire in Kentex Manufacturing Corporation is a one-time tragedy, an isolated incident in which all involved are responding properly.


In a statement, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) vowed to "ensure that the victims and their families will receive social and labor justice." The Bureau of Fire Protection and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are conducting investigations into the incident. The owners of Kentex announced that they would give financial assistance to the victims, to help with identification, burial, and medical expenses. The City Council of Valenzuela has declared a "state of mourning" and promised further financial aid to the victims.


But what about the 72 dead, so seldom named in the media, whose lives cannot be restored by any act or measure? These responses are all palliative, a puny answer to the real cause of the Kentex tragedy: an institutionalized and deeply entrenched disregard for the basic rights of Filipino workers.


The only way to give genuine justice to the victims is to recognize that the tragedy began long before the fire. The truth is that workers everywhere in the Philippines, including Kentex, are being doomed in a sub-human life and working condition.  They are contractualized instead of given regular employment (many of the 72 victims were contractual workers); paid below minimum wage (P202 per day in the case of Kentex workers); and forced to work in hazardous conditions that often lead to injury, and in this instance, large-scale tragedy. This factory, like many others, had minimal safety measures — the Kentex factory, in particular, had no fire escape, and survivors said that they were “trapped” inside by grills over the windows.


And when workers unite and organize themselves into unions in order to demand better conditions, the default response of employers, in collusion with government agencies, is to threaten and harass them into backing down.


We at All Workers Unity (AWU) express the deepest sympathy with the victims. We appreciate the promises to assist them in this terrible time. And, most of all, we recognize that the grief of survivors and victims' families is not merely the grief of those who have lost a loved one. It is the grief of a loss that could have been averted, if only workers were given the proper protection, importance and care that they deserved.


Thus, the proper response must be beyond condolences, grief, and sympathy. Justice and Accountability must prevail. And when the smoke from the rubbles of Kentex factory dies, the challenge to uphold the workers’ democratic rights and welfare to decent wages and working conditions must be addressed genuinely and sincerely.


We, the All Workers Unity vows to do our part. A greater commitment to fight for decent wages; end contractualization and other cheap labor policies;and protection of workers' rights, will be the lasting legacy of the Kentex fire.

 

Reference:

All Workers Unity Spokespersons: Rea Alegre, 0916-6849195,

 

     
     
           
     
     
     

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PAGKAKAISA NG MANGGAGAWA SA TIMOG KATAGALUGAN-KILUSANG MAYO UNO (PAMANTIK-KMU)

PRESS STATEMENT

May 14, 2015

 

REFERENCE PERSONS

Roque Polido (09204518863), Chairperson, PAMANTIK-KMU

Christopher Oliquino (09085772960), Vice-Chairperson, PAMANTIK-KMU

 

Makatarungang kompensasyon para sa mga manggagawang biktima ng sunog sa Valenzuela

 

Taos-pusong nakikiramay ang buong kasapian ng Pagkakaisa ng mga Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan – Kilusang Mayo Uno (PAMANTIK-KMU) sa mga pamilya ng mgabiktima sa nangyaring sunog ng isang pagawaan ng tsinelas sa Valenzuala nitong Mayo 13, 2015.

 

Isang malagim na trahediya para sa maralitang Pilipino ang biglang mawalan ng nagtataguyod sa pagsustento para sa pang-araw-araw na pangangailan pamilya. Ang nangyaring sunog na kumitil sa kumpirmadong 31 katao na karamihan ay kababaihan (at pinangangambahang umakyat pa sa 70 dahil “nawawala” o hindi na makilala pa mula sa natupok na apoy) – ay kung tutuusin hindi lamang isang aksidente kundi may pananagutan dapat sa may-ari ng pagawaan at lalo na sa Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) ng gobyernong Aquino.

Kapuna-puna napinaniniwalaang mula sa isang “pagsabog ng mga kemikal na ginagamit sa paggawa ng tsinelas” ang pinagmulan ng sunog.Nakumpirma ring walangfire escapes ang mismong gusali kaya’t napilitan makulong ang karamihan sa mga manggagawa sa ikalawang palapag hanggang tuluyang lamunin sila ng apoy.

 

Maiuugat natin ang ganitong mga kapabayaan sa usapin ng occupational health at fire safety standards dahil sa kawalan ng inspeksyon ng DoLE sa mga pabrika upang mapangalagaan ang kaligtasan ng mga manggagawa. Sa tala nga ng International Labor Organization, sa bawat 15 segundo ay isang manggagawa ang namamatay dahil sa disgrasya o sakit na nakukuha sa loob ng lugar ng pagawaan. 

 

Ngunit sa halip na mapababa ang istatistikang ito, dahil sa ipinatupad ng DoLE na Department Order 57-04, nagkibit-balikat na lamang ang ahensiya sa kanilang responsibilidad sa mga manggagawa. Hinayaan ng DoLE ang mga pagawaang nag-eempleyo ng 200 katao o higit pa na maglunsad na lamang ng “self-assessment” hinggil sa occupational health and safety ng kani-kanilang mga pagawaan.

 

Sa Timog Katagalugan (TK), talamak ang mga pagawaang hindi nagpapatupad ng mga patakarang mangangalaga sa kaligtasan ng mga manggagawa. Lalo na sa bahagi ng mga kontraktwal na manggagawa na hindi binibigyan ng Personal Protective Equipment, hindi sinasanay upang magkaroon ng kaalaman hinggil sa panganib ng mga kemikal na kanilang ginagamit sa paggawa, at hindi ipinagkakalooban ng mga nararapat na benepisyo. Hindi nalalayo ang sitwasyon sa TK na maliban sa panganib na maisalang sa mga katulad na trahediya ay araw-araw tinatamaan ng krisis dahil sa mababang pasahod at kawalan ng seguridad sa trabaho.

 

Kaya’t kaisa ng mga pamilya ng biktima ang PAMANTIK-KMU sa pagpapanawagan para sa makatarungang kompensasyon para sa mga pamilya ng nawalandulot ng sunog. Gayundin, nananawagan kami sa ang pagsusulong ng pagtaas sa kalidad ng pangangalaga sa kaligtasan ng manggagawa sa loob ng pabrika upang maiwasan ang mga kahalintulad pangtrahediya at panganib sa buhay ng manggagawang Pilipinong siyang bumubuhay sa ekonomiya ng ating bansa. #
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The bodies of the Kentex workers were brought to Brgy. Maysan's Mutipurpose Hall in Valenzuela City for processing and identification. Coffins from different funeral parlors were delivered to the hall.
Photos by Jun Santiago / Tudla Productions  May 14

     
     
           
     
     
           
VIDEO CLIPS
   
   
   


Interfaith Mass and Candlelighting for the Victims of the Kentex Fire, Barangay Ugong, Valenzuela, Bulacan,  May 18, 2015


 

Human Rights Groups Call for the Release of Political Prisoners, Hold Candlelighting, Demand Justice to Kentex Fire Victims. UP Sunken Garden. May 16, 2015
 


 

 

 

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