Interfaith Mass and Candlelighting
for the Victims of the Kentex Fire
Barangay Ugong, Valenzuela, Bulacan
May 18, 2015
BLOOD RUSH By SARAH RAYMUNDO
This is no way to die. That was my initial reaction upon reading the news on a factory fire that killed 72 people who made rubber slippers for a living. This is among the worst documented fires in contemporary times in terms of casualties. In 2001, fire gutted a budget hotel killing 75 people. Much earlier, 162 people died in a big fire that gutted the Ozone disco in 1996.
Witnesses and survivors report that victims were screaming for help behind iron grills that barred them from escaping through the windows. The iron grills were installed to protect the owners of Kentext from theft. Yet the 72 workers on account of a system that reduces labor to a mere function of time had nothing to protect themselves from the theft of surplus value that capitalists practice every working day.
The iron grills that trapped the workers to death weren’t even a metaphor for the iron law of wages that kept workers’ pay to a minimum. They were the logical conclusion of capitalist accumulation, a process that cannot take place without taking away all value that comes from labor to the point of sucking the life out of labor itself.
Sites of Production
Away from Manila at the moment, I can only read as much as I can on the infamous blaze that was the Kentex fire. I realize that a sounder reaction to this monumental tragedy is in order: working for Kentex was no way live!
Kentex is located in Valenzuela City, a factory hub in northern Manila. It was once part of the province of Bulacan until commercial development along with poor urban planning and politician’s glut for business tax and state allocation took over. Valenzuela, though, is no city that fell from grace. I remember passing by factories on a daily basis on my way to school back in the 80s. But for some reason, I don’t remember seeing scores of workers entering into or coming out of those factories. But with vagueness, I do recall one of them being a production site for tabo (mini dippers). The Valenzuela of my childhood felt dry and abandoned.
Despite its status as a chartered city for the state’s vision of economic development, Valenzuela is far from that district of acceptable greed called Makati in all its posh and promise. Valenzuela City’s condos do not bear the same kind of distinction that the small boxes in Bonifacio High Street do. Wasn’t the president’s former girlfriend subtly stigmatized for living in Valenzuela town? It was the ultimate signifier for the class gap between the ex-lovers.
In other words, Valenzuela City is no place of distinction. In a culture where bourgeios standards reign, one way to understand this stigma is precisely Valenzuela’s position in Manila’s political-economic map. Production sites where workers surrender their labor to the altar of capital are not glamorous spaces.
No way to live
But this spatial dynamics is not merely cultural. We are conditioned to pay no mind whatsoever to the laboring activities of people who produce our food, gadgets, shirts, shoes, bags, and slippers. Until something scandalously tragic happens.
Now we are reminded that the first victims of poor working conditions are the workers themselves. The first victims of unemployment are the unemployed rural and urban poor. Meanwhile, the “middling classes” are usually victimized by their own middling minds. The propertied class knows exactly what to do. As owners of the means of production, it is their role to accumalate profit through the exploitation of labor.
Ironically, sites of wealth production are looked down upon and deemed unsafe by people who cultivate an unfortunate aspirational mindset. There is nothing essential about work that makes workers dangerous. But the wage system that is underpinned by the logic of profit accumulation renders workers poor and dispossessed. So poor and dispossessed that certain classes of people can actually live their whole lives distinguishing themselves from this lot. Needless to say, such disposition is a product of miseducation.
From Marx, we learn that if things were really are what they seem, then we no longer have a need for science. Our impressions and fetishes would have sufficed to understand the world and the relations that make it up. Perhaps all we knew about the brand “Havana” before the Kentex fire is that it is a cheap knock-off of the much fetishized, and therefore overpriced Brazillian brand “Havaianas.”
Meanwhile, labor organizations and labor advocates have acquired eyes for what is normally erased from the scene of consumption. The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), the Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development IOHSAD), Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER), and Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) immdiately conducted a fact-finding mission on the Kentex fire and released the first comprehensive report on the tragedy.
The report tackles how the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on September 2014 declared that Kentex complies with general labor and occupational safety standards. Likewise, the factory was reportedly given a fire safety inspection certification by the Bureau of Fire Protection.
However, the fact-finding team “found glaring violations of standards pertaining to general labor conditions and to occupational health and safety. They argue “that most likely, these violations caused the tragic and massive loss of lives in the recent fire (http://ctuhr.org/on-the-kentex-factory-fire/).”
It is difficult enought to imagine the tragic death of the 72 workers. But knowing about how they lived through the terrible working conditions at Kentex is enraging.
Kentex that is owned by Mr. Beato Ang and Mr. Ong King Guan is the kind of manufacturing company that only regularizes workers after 20-25 years of service. Those who have served the company for 10 years remain casuals. Regular or casual, workers receive a minimum wage and are not part of the company union that is only made up of 30 people.
There are about 104 casual workers illegally hired by a subcontracting agency which DOLE reporteldy aims to summon for patent violation of labor laws. Their social security, health and housing contributions were never remitted by their recruitment agency. Some workers are also hired on a piece-rate basis and are required to work for 12 hours.
All these workers had a shared experience of utmost discomfort in the workplace: “[They] 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.” (http://ctuhr.org/on-the-kentex-factory-fire/)
Lamentably, officials say that there is no way to determine the accurate number of victims just yet—at least 20 more are missing— not even their complete names are available as records were lost. Records show, however, that long before fire razed Kentex factory, none of its workers mattered, not their welfare, not their lives, much less their names.
The Aquino regime like many governments which have embraced the interest of big business have actually withdrawn from its public obligations ranging from health care, education, housing, transporation, water, energy, and other public utilities. They have done so through the neoliberal consensus that was clinched since the 1970s. It is an anti-people consensus that the ruling class in imperialist states and their allies in their client states have forged to save global capitalism from its crisis.
DOLE’s Department Order 18-A (DO 18-A),which effectively legalizes contractualization, enables the illegal subconracting of labor. This is why government officials’ statements by Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldo and Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr that pay lip service to labor rights are hypocritical, deceptive, and empty.
Until the Aquino regime lifts its contractualization policy on labor, workers who are already exploited by the wage system will remain vulnerable to all sorts abuses and labor rights violations.
Now more than ever, as
filipino workers are cheapened and brutalized by foreign investors and
their local cohorts, and a government that makes new laws against labor so
that politicians' stakes in business is so high they can afford to imagine
workers' lives lesser than their own, the question remains: Socialism or
from a line in the poem “Shirt” by Robert Pinsky in the collection The
Want Bone(1990): “The
infamous blaze/ At the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in nineteen-eleven.”
This allusion is to the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in Manhattan, a
sweatshop where, in 1911, a fire broke out and killed more than one
hundred immigrant workers.” (http://www.enotes.com/topics/shirt)
|▲Interfaith mass for the victims ▼|
Katarungan Para sa mga Biktima ng Sunog sa KENTEX
Hindi pa man naghihilom ang damdamin ng sambayanan sa trahedya sa mga biyuda ng Mamasapano at sa muntikan nang pagbitay sa OFW na si Mary Jane Veloso, isa na namang malagim na trahedya ang naganap, itong pagkasawi ng 72 katao, na karamihan ay kababaihang manggagawa, sa sunog na tumupok sa Kentex Manufacturing Corporation.
Maraming salaysay ang lumabas sa media at social media tungkol sa puno’t dulo ng industrial accident na lagi’t laging nangyayari sa iba’t ibang pagawaan at gusaling itinatayo sa ating bansa. Isang matingkad na ulat ay patungkol sa agad-agad na pagtatangka ng Department of Labor and Employment na palusutin sa responsibilidad ang may-ari ng Kentex. Sa una ay sinabing malinis ang rekord ng DOLE sa paglalabas ng ipinagmamayabang na moda ng inspection sa mga pagawaan sa bansa. Noong Huwebes, idineklara ni Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz na compliant with general labor standards and occupational safety and health standards ang Kentex. May Certificate of Compliance pa umano na iginawad noong Setyembre 2014, bukod pa sa patunay na may safety committee pa na nagpapatupad daw ng safety rules and regulations. Kinaumagahan, tila ibig namang bumawi, matalim ang binitiwang salita ng kalihim na nagsabing “imoral” ang pagpapatakbo ng may-ari sa pabrika, dahil maraming kakadiskubreng diumanong mga nilalabag na patakaran para sa karapatan ng mga manggagawa .
Isa na namang aspeto ng Matuwid na Daan ang nalantad na isang ampaw na programa sa kabila ng mga pagyayabang nito na may pagtalima ang gobyernong Aquino sa serbisyo sa tao, sapagkat ang bawat bigong bunga ay nasusundan ng pagtatakip at pagsisihan sa pagitan mismo ng mga ahensiya ng gobyerno. Nauna nang dumanas ng krisis ang AFP at PNP sa pagtuturuan kung sino ang may pananagutan sa likod ng pagkasawi ng 70 katao sa Mamasapano incident na nasundan kaagad ng paglantad sa publiko ng malaking kakapusan, kung hindi man kawalan, ng aksyon ng Department of Foreign Affairs, na nagsadlak sa death row kay Mary Jane at 90 pang OFWs. Ngayon naman, nagkukumahog ang DOLE sa pag-iimbestiga sa Kentex hindi para sa karapatan at kagalingan ng mga manggagawang nasawi sa trahedya, kung hindi para pagtakpan ang responsibilidad at sagipin ang sariling mga patakaran at programang nagbunga ng napakasaklap na trahedya ng “KENTEX 72” victims.
Kaagad nagsadya ang inyong lingkod bilang kinatawan ng Gabriela sa pagawaan ng Kentex sa Valenzuela para samahan ang iba’t ibang people’s organizations at NGOs na mag-alay ng dasal at pakikiramay. Layon din na makibahagi sa pagkalap ng mga ulat mula sa mga kaanak ng mga namatay, at ibukas ang serbisyo ng aming partido sa psycho-social counselling para sa mga naulila.
Ginoong Speaker, mga kasamahan dito sa Kamara, hanggang ngayon ay puno pa rin ako ng dalamhati at galit dulot ng nakita, narinig at madamang mga panangis at daing ng mga naulilang magulang, anak, asawa at kaibigan ng mga namatay na manggagawa ng Kentex. Sa misa kahapon na alay sa mga biktima, nakiisa ako hindi bilang isang congresswoman, kundi bilang isa ding babae, ina, at kapatid na nakaranas na mawalan ng mahal na buhay, hindi man sa isang trahedya, ay sadyang masakit. Ang biglaaang mawalan ng mahal sa buhay sa isang malagim na trahedya ay lubhang mas mabigat at masakit na pakiramdam, nawalan ka pa ng katuwang sa buhay. Sabihin ko mang nauunawaan ko ang kanilang nadarama hindi ko pa rin masasabi kung ano ang totoo nilang saloobin gayong sa kasalukuyang ay wala silang makitang liwanag at kalutasan sa mga problemang sabay-sabay na dumating sa kanilang buhay.
Kinikilala ko ang maagap na pagkilos ng Kilusang Mayo Uno at Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development o IOHSAD, sadyang malaki ang naitulong nila sa pakikiisa sa kapwa nila manggagawa ganoong din sa pagkuha ng mahahalagang datos sa kalagayan ng manggagawa sa Kentex na noon pa mang nabubuhay sila ay kadusta-dusta na ang kalagayan at ngayon ay lalo pang nahaharap sa matinding krisis dulot ng kawalan ng katuwang para mabuhay.
Hayaan ninyong ibahagi ko ang mga sanaysay na sama-sama naming nakuha. Isa si Carla Tejada sa mga namatay. Si Carla ay 19 anyos na babae na pitong buwang buntis. Madali sana ang pagkakakilanlan sa kanya pero hindi maiuwi ng kanyang kaanak ang kanyang bangkay dahil hindi lang si Carla ang buntis na nasawi sa sunog sa Kentex, may tatlo pang ibang buntis sa mga nasawi. May apat na sanggol na nasa sinapupunan ang namatay sa sunog sa Kentex.
Si Marietta Madiclom naman ay 50 anyos na ang edad at 15 taon nang nagtatrabaho sa Kentex hindi bilang regular o kontraktwal na manggagawa kung hindi bilang isang manggagawang pakyawan. Inuulit ko, nagtrabaho sa Kentex ng 15 taon pero regular na manggagawa. Noong buhay pa siya, ayon sa kanyang anak, idinadaing na niya ng paninikip ng dibdib pero ayaw niyang umalis sa trabaho dahil nanghihinayang na di makatatanggap ng anumang benepisyo. May dalawa siyang kapatid na namatay din sa sunog, sina Myrna, 46 years old, at Joanna Marie, 27.
Katulad ni Marietta, si Jilyn Cabatong, 33 anyos, ay isang ring manggagawang pakyawan na may 13 taon na ding namasukan sa Kentex. Bagama’t single at nag-iisang babae sa limang magkakapatid, nakipagsapalaran sa Maynila si Jilyn hindi para sa sarili kung hindi para mag-ipon at maipagawa ang bahay ang kanyang ama sa Cebu.
Katulad naman si Jilyn ay at nagtrabaho din ang 23 anyos na si Jessie Falalimpa sa Kentex para maipagawa ang bahay ng kanyang mga magulang. Personal na dumulog sa akin ang mga kapatid ni Jessie. Biktima ng Yolanda ang pamilya ni Jessie at dahil sa mahirap na buhay matapos wasakin ng bagyong Yolanda ang kanilang bahay at kabuhayan, napilitan siyang makipagsapalaran sa Maynila. Ang tanong ng mga kapatid ni Jessie, paano na daw maiuuwi ang bangkay ng kanilang kapatid ngayong kasama siyang nakalibing ng maraming nasawi, at tanging numero na lamang ang pagkakakilanlan sa bawat bangkay? Umiiyak ang nanay at tatay ni Jessie at nagsusumamo na matulungan silang makilala at mabigyan ng disenteng libing si Jessie, anuman ang natira sa labi ng kanilang anak.
Marahil nabasa na ng marami ang mga teknikal na salaysay na naglabasan sa media kung paano kumalat ang apoy mula sa pagsabog ng kemikal na maling nakaimbak at ang patong-patong na paglabag sa safety standards na para na ring siyang nagtiyak na makukulong at mamamatay ang mga biktima. Hindi lang ito isang sanaysay, nakumpirma ito sa Fact-Finding Mission ng KMU at IOHSAD. Tinalo pa ng gusaling nasunog ang bilangguan na bukod pa sa kawalan ng fire exit, fire drills, at wastong pag-imbak ng mga materyales ay balot na balot ng grills at chicken wire. Kung sasalain natin ang nakita sa fact-finding mission, magigimbal tayo sa pagkakahalintulad nito sa mga pagawaan na death traps sa panahon ng 1800s. Hindi po nagbabago ang kalagayan ng pagawaan matapos ang daang taon na pag-usad ng kasaysayan ng pamumuhunan sa iba’t-ibang panig ng mundo.
Noong Marso 1911, 146 ang namatay sa Triangle Shirtwaist Company, isang pagawaan sa New York City. Katulad sa sunog ng Kentex, sila ay nakulong sa ika-9 na palapag na may kandado sa fire exits. Sa Bangladesh, 123 na pawang mga kababaihan ang nakulong at nasunog sa Tazreen Fashions factory na wala ding fire exit. Sa kabila ng pagpupustura ng mga fashion corporations sa Amerika at Europa na gagamitin nila na political pressure ang industriya ng garments sa Bangladesh, ang 4,500 planta na katulad ng Tazreen ay nananatiling siksikan sa manggagawa, wala sa standard ang electrical wiring, at namimiligrong mag-collapse. Noong 1993, mahigit dalawangpung taon na ang nakakaraan, nasunog ang Zhili Handicraft Factory na pinagsama-samang bodega, workshop at workers’ dormitory sa Shenzhen. Pinangakuan ng kompensasyon ang mga naulila ng 87 na manggagawang namatay na hindi naman natupad. Nakakakilabot sa lumabas na report na katulad din sa Kentex, pinakandado ng kapitalista ang mga exits ng pabrika ng mga laruan na ito sa China para umano sawatain ang pagnanakaw ng kalakal sa hanay ng mga empleyado.
Sa Pilipinas, sunod-sunod na din ang mga industrial accidents na kumitil sa maraming buhay, kabilang ang sunog sa bodega Pasay na ikinamatay ng 8 babae; at sunog din sa Novo Jeans factory sa Butuan na ikinamatay naman ng may 17 babaeng manggagawa.
Karamihan ng mga insidenteng ito ay masasabing resulta ng kapabayaan ng gobyerno sa sarili nitong tungkulin na pangalagaan ang karapatan ng manggagawa. Naglabas ang DOLE ng Department Order 131-13, ang Labor Laws Compliance System, na layunin umano ay “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.”
Ito ang diwa ng tripartism na ipinapatupad ng rehimeng Aquino, na sa suma tutal ay pagsasapribado ng government functions sa pag-seseguro sa pagpapatupad ng mga industriya ng occupational health and safety. Pinaglalaho nito ang pananagutan ng Estado na kompulsaryong sumunod sa batas ng occupational health and safety. Sa halip ay ipinapaubaya sa mga kapitalista ang buhay ng mga manggagawa. Ilusyon lamang ang tripartism, dahil kapitalista lang naman ang nasusunod at masusunod sa isang pabrika. Ang Labor Inspector, pinalitan ng Labor Laws Compliance Officer. At kasabay ng implementasyon sa sistema ng self-assessment ng Department Order at, naging scheduled na din ang inspection ng pabrika dahil tinanggal na din ang surprise inspection. May checklist ng mga standards na guguhitan na lamang ng check ang mga kahon sa tapat ng bawat standard. Kaya hindi nakakapagtakang itinuring na “compliant” itong Kentex at halos lahat ng empresa sa buong bansa. Malinaw na isang drama na lang ang prosesong ito.
Noong nabubuhay pa ang mga biktima, sila ay tila mga kaluluwang pinatay na ng sobrang baba ng pasahod at ng araw-araw na pagkaalipin sa kontraktwal o pakyawan na empleyo. Masasabi natin na sila makailang-ulit na biktima, hindi lang sa lagim ng kanilang pagsapit sa kamatayan, kundi sa isang malaganap na pagsasamantala ng kapitalista na pilit ipinagkakaila ng mga ahensya ng gobyerno at ng mga kapitalista. Hindi lang kuwento ang mga moda ng mala-aliping paggawa, pinatunayan ito ng mga nakaligtas na manggagawa ng Kentex. Sa fact-finding mission din at kahit sa mga interview sa mass media, naglabasan ang mga litanya ukol sa pagsasamantala sa manggagawa. Merongndapat ay “ regular” na manggagawana na 20-25 years nagtatrabaho. Merong namang mga casual na manggagawa na mga 10 taon ng nagtatrabaho, at may mahigit 100—kabilang dito ang marami sa mga namatay—na tinatawag na agency workers, na ang arawang sahod na P202 lamang na hindi aabot sa minimum wage kahit idagdag pa ang paiba-iba halaga na daily allowance na nagkakahalaga ngP187-P220, depende sa haba ng serbisyo sa trabaho. May nagsabi din na ang sahod ay kinakaltasan pa ng halagang 5 piso hanggang 20 piso na kinukubra ng mga kabo hiwalay pa sa kita ng ahensiya sa kanila. Ayon sa IOHSAD, iimbestigahan nila ang ulat na may mga menor de edad din na nagtatrabaho sa Kentex– mga high school students na nag-apply ng summer jobs.
Sinasabi ng DOLE na ang katarungan ay simpleng compensation justice lamang. Matapos ang sinapit ng mga manggagawa at sa sinasapit ng kanilang pamilya, magpapakasapat na lang ba tayo dito. Nananawagan ng mga pamilya ng biktima ng tunay na hustisya para sa kanilang mga nasawing kaanak, at kailangan papanagutin ang kapitalista ng Kentex. Ito ang kagyat na laban, isang hamon na dapat nating suportahan. Ngunit ang higit nating magagawa para tulungan ang mga biktima na makamtan ang tunay na katarungan ay imbestigahan ang laganap na ang kontraktuwalisasyon at paglabag sa occupational safety sa buong bansa. Hindi lamang ito para sa mga nasawi sa Kentex kundi sa iba pang mga biktima ng Eton properties, Novo Jeans, at Micro Tech. Nakalutang na ang dambuhalang depekto ng pamamahala ng DOLE at iba pang regulatory agencies. Magandang simulan natin ang imbestagasyon sa Department Order 131-13, at mula doon ay isa-isang malansag ang iba pang mga kautusan ng mga ahensya na sa higit na naglilingkod sa kapitalista at nagpapahamak sa mga manggagawa
Ngayong Mayo 18 ay itinalagang National Day of Mourning ng mga pamilya at mga nakaligtas sa sunog sa Kentex. Inaanyayahan ko ang mga mambabatas na makiisa sa kahingian ng mga manggagawa na ipasa na ang mga batas na magtitiyak ng pag-aayos ng ligtas na trabaho, na may nakabubuhay na sahod at regular na empleyo. Sa pagtatapos ng konsultahan kahapon sa San Juan Dela Cruz Parish Church sa Barangay Ugong, nasambit ng isang babae, na nagpakilalang biyenan ng isa sa mga namatay sa pabrika, na kailangang isulong ang kaso hindi para sa indibidwal at paisa-isang paghahabol ng danyos. Sa kanya ding sariling pananalita, ito ay para na rin sa mapagpasiyang kalutasan sa baluktot na sistema, at para mabigyan ng proteksyon ang lahat ng manggagawa ng magkaroon ng saysay ang pagkamatay ng mga manggagawa ng Kentex.
Ako ay pumapanig sa kanya sa paniniwala na ang paggawad ng hustisya ay hindi sa barya-baryang danyos sa mga napinsala, kundi sa malaganap na hustisyang panlipunan para sa uring manggagawa sa buong bansa.
Maraming salamat, magandang gabi.
|▲Candlelighting for the victims ▼|
May 18, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Reference: Sol Pillas, Secretary-General, 0925-4469920
Justice for Kentex workers! Justice for all Filipino workers! - Migrante
Global alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International extends its most heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of workers of Kentex Manufacturing Inc. who died in a factory fire last May 13.
Seventy-two workers have been confirmed dead, mostly women, while 20 more remain missing. Witnesses attest that some 200 were present when the fire consumed the factory.
Kentex, a factory located in Valenzuela City, clearly violated general labor standards and occupational health and safety standards. Despite this, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) had been quick to state that Kentex passed all inspections and exercised strict compliance with labor standards. However, a fact-finding mission conducted by Kilusang Mayo Uno, Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) and the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER) Philippines exposed clear violations, among them, the “mishandling of hazardous and flammable chemicals, absence of proper smoke and fire alarm, and fire exits, and apparent absence of fire and safety drills”.
Migrante International calls for justice for the 72++ Kentex workers. We mourn with Filipino workers and the rest of the nation for this grave injustice and negligence, not only of greedy capitalists but of the Philippine government. We rage against these conditions that continue to place our Filipino workers in unsafe environments and, when tragedy strikes, diminish them to mere statistics of “occupational hazards”.
The Kentex tragedy also brings to light the slave-like conditions and unjust wages that Filipino workers are forced to endure. Kentex workers receive a pittance of daily wages (Php202/day), plus an additional Php187-Php220 daily allowance depending on how long they have been working for the company.
Migrante International condemns in strongest terms slave wages that continue to plague millions of our Filipino workers in favour of greed for profit. It is precisely in search of decent jobs and higher wages that the number of Filipino workers and those leaving for labor migration everyday have been on the rise since Pres. Aquino took office.
At least one-fourth of the country’s labor force has gone abroad to find work. Jobs created are highly disproportional to the ever-growing labor force and underemployed. The number of jobless and underpaid Filipinos increased by at least 600,000 during Aquino’s first year in office alone.
While those who do land domestic jobs, as in the case of Kentex workers, suffer very low wages. Worsening joblessness and underemployment feed on already chronically low wages, with the current minimum wage grossly inadequate to sustain even the most humble of families.
The Kentex tragedy is clear and present testament to how detrimental the government’s labor export policy and failure to curb forced migration are to Filipino workers. The Kentex tragedy is also testament to the Aquino government’s criminal government neglect to protect and uphold the rights and welfare of our Filipino workers, whether they be here in the Philippines or abroad.
|▲Portraits of some of the victims ▼|
Bishop Gerardo A. Alminaza (Photo: Alminaza's Facebook)
“The death of so many workers shows that the government’s mechanism for labor assessment is seriously flawed and has exposed the abusive conditions for millions of poor and desperate workers across the nation,” the 55-year-old bishop said in a statement.
Not the first
“On May 9,2012, 17 workers of Novo Jeans and Shorts in Butuan City died when a fire broke out and on April 30, 2014, eight workers of Asia Micro Tech in Pasay City died in another fire,” he said.
He added often these tragedies in the Philippines pass without anyone being held accountable.
“We are deeply saddened that not a single capitablist has been judged guilty and jailed for the death of workers in the workplace,” he said.
Citing Gaudium et Spes 27, ( “All violations of the integrity of the human person, all offenses against human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, gegrading working conditions where men/women are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons: all these and the like are criminal: they poison civilization” ), Alminaza said the church sees violations of occupational health and safety standards that result in workers’ deaths as criminal acts.
Man, not profit
“Contractualization is still prevalent in many factories across the country,” he said. He added this scheme results in the dissolution of unions and the dismantling of regular workers’ protection and benefits. He cited the Department of Labor and Employment for its revelations about Kentex Corporation’s use of an illegal sub-contractor and violations of certain provisions of the Labor Code where workers were paid below the minimum wage and were forced to work 12 hours a day, seven days a week bereft of overtime pay.
He cited ILO Director General Guy Ryder’s statement to make workplaces safe, there lies a need to carry out regular inspectors to ensure that factories “comply with structural, fire and electrical safety; and by ensuring workers’ rights, especially freedom of association and collective bargaining.”
He concluded saying Pope Francis has joined millions of workers in their fight to “construct a society and an economy where man and his good, and not money, may be the center.”
Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani, Jr. said government and employers should always put people and their safety as top priority even before profit. He added it is never too late for government authorities and business leaders to see this. Bacani was a member of the 1987 Constitutional Commission.
“It is not just about being employed but being safe and [considering] one’s workplace as second home for workers to develop as persons,” the 57-year-old bishop said.
Exercens, Bishop Cabantan said “The primacy of labor over capital needs to
“Our government agencies must look after their situation in various workplaces so that tragedies similar to the Valenzuela incident should not be repeated,” he explained.
He also called for the strict implementation of existing rules of occupational health and safety. (Melo M. Acuña/CBCPNews)
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.
However, 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 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.
→ 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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
Justice for Kentex
workers and other victims of OHS Standards violations!
Hold DOLE accountable
for the Kentex Tragedy!
Repeal DO 131-13! Pass
Occupational Health and Safety DevelopmentCenter for Trade
Union and Human RightsEcumenical
Institute for Labor Education and ResearchKilusang Mayo Uno
|Meeting with lawyers and facilitaror ▼|
|Messages on streamers and posters ▼|
15 May 2015
Reference: Nadia De Leon, IOHSAD Advocacy Officer, 0917-6252919
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.
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
May 15, 2015
All Workers Unity Spokespersons: Rea Alegre, 0916-6849195,
|Kentex Mfg Corporation Factory ▼|
PAGKAKAISA NG MANGGAGAWA SA TIMOG KATAGALUGAN-KILUSANG MAYO UNO (PAMANTIK-KMU)
May 14, 2015
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. #
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.
|The tree beside the burnt factory lives|