By JOAN SALVADOR
Seventy-two (72) workers, many of whom were women, 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 on 13 May 2015.
The company, located in Valenzuela City, manufactures rubber slippers for sale and distribution in various parts of the country. According to Ibon International, the killer fire happened in a World Bank-endorsed “business friendly city.”
Official documents from the Department of Labor and Employment say that the factory passed an inspection on compliance with general labor standards and occupational health and safety standards. However, based on a fact finding mission conducted by Kilusang Mayo Uno, CTUHR and EILER Philippines, several violations including mishandling of hazardous and flammable chemicals, absence of proper smoke and fire alarm, and fire exits, and apparent absence of fire and safety drills among workers were found.
Apart from unsafe working conditions, workers at Kentex, also suffered from slavelike conditions. Workers receive only a daily wage of P202 (US$4.5) plus P187 to P220 (US$4 to 5) daily allowance depending on how long they’ve been working for the company.
Thousands of workers are in danger of suffering the same fate as the Kentex workers because factory and business owners sacrifice their workers’ safety in favor of more profit and the government remains deaf and blind to their welfare as long as investments are in place. Without opportunities for decent jobs, women fall for contractual, low-paying and exploitative jobs in factories like Kentex just to contribute in their family’s survival. They are not only victims of capitalist greed but also of government neglect.
We 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. Follow the campaign here.