Friday, May 29, 2015

Labor group dares PNoy to certify bill criminalizing OSH violations

Press Release
May 29, 2015

The labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) today challenged President Benigno Aquino III to certify as priority legislation of his administration the bill providing for criminalization of violation of occupational safety and health (OSH) standards. “PNoy’s declaration that there needs to be an ‘integrated multi-disciplinary approach’ in response to the Kentex factory fire are highfalutin words good for bureaucrats but abstract to workers who want to see concrete action and political will from the government,” averred Rene Magtubo, PM national chair.

It was reported that last Wednesday that President Aquino met officials from the Labor Department and other agencies regarding the government’s response to the Kentex fire. Even earlier Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz pushed for the enactment of pending bills that mandate stiffer fines and jail terms for employer breach of workplace safety standards.

“We welcome Secretary Baldoz’s support for bills criminalizing OSH violations but until her boss PNoy certifies as urgent such pending legislation, they remain so much noise signifying nothing,” Magtubo insisted.

PM had been vocal in calling not just for justice for workers killed and injured in the Kentex fire but for labor inspection and enforcement reforms. As an immediate reform, Magtubo called for deputizing labor leaders as additional labor inspectors. PM is also pushing for criminalization of  OSH violations as a potent deterrent.

Magtubo said that “Workers can forget PNoy’s slight of not even visiting the Kentex factory after the fire or the wake of workers killed, but we cannot forgive if in the coming State of the Nation address he will not certify as urgent the bills providing for criminalization of OSH breach and for protection of security of tenure.”

Labor groups have been campaigning for passage of security of tenure bill that will regulate the rampant practice of replacing regular workers with contractual laborers. In the wake of the Kentex fire, it was found out that Kentex not only violated OSH standards but also labor laws, including using an illegal contractor to hire agency workers in the factory.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Labor group challenges business sector to speak on Kentex tragedy

Press Release
May 21, 2015

The labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) today challenged the business sector to speak on the fire at Kentex Manufacturing Corp. that killed at least 72 people, almost all of whom were factory workers and many of whom were women.

“Compared to the prominent role of employers in support of the controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law, they are noticeably absent in the calls for justice and reform in the wake of the tragic Kentex fire. Would Jaime Zobel de Ayala and Manny Pangilinan link up arms with labor leaders to call for jailing the immoral owners of Kentx and the criminalization of workplace safety violations?,” asserted Judy Ann Miranda, PM secretary general.

Yesterday, PM together with labor groups affiliated to the coalition Nagkaisa! trooped to the Kentex factory to hold a site inspection and spray paint the gutted factory and nearby establishment with the message “Sweatshop ito: NAKAMAMATAY!” The action was part of PM’s campaign to seek justice for the Kentex workers and demand labor reforms.

“Employer groups have been deafeningly silent on Kentex in contrast to their noisy opposition to wage hike demands. We dare them to denounce Kentex for its violations of workplace safety and labor standards. We call on them to support calls for criminalization of breach of occupational safety and health,” Miranda argued.

She noted that the recent statement by Employer Confederation of the Philippines that it does not condone labor law violations and it supports penalizing Kentex if found guilty is “too little, too late given the concrete facts that have been uncovered about the sweatshop conditions at the factory.”

PM is demanding that business groups spell out detailed mechanisms for self-regulation among it employer members to ensure compliance with labor rights and standards.

Miranda explained that “Even big companies and multinational corporations, which are generally compliant with the minimum standards set by law, benefit from sweatshop labor because small companies are subcontractors in their supply chains. For example, global garment brands even employ homeworkers toiling under the exploitative piece rate system not as direct employees but as laborers in layers upon layers of subcontracting arrangements. No wonder the business sector is quiet and absent in the outrage over Kentex since the capitalist class benefit as a whole from sweatshop labor.”

Monday, May 18, 2015

“Jail Kentex, subcon owners!”—labor group

Press Release
May 18, 2015

The militant Partido Manggagawa (PM) is calling for the criminal prosecution of the owners of Kentex Manufacturing and its subcontractor CJC Manpower Services. To highlight this call, some 50 PM members will troop this morning to the main office of the Department of Labor and Employment as Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz summons the representatives of Kentex and CJC for a mandatory conference.

“Workers who are caught jaywalking can be jailed. The owners of Kentex and CJC deserve no less a penalty for the massacre of some 70 workers and injuries to dozens more. The owners of Kentex and CJC are not just immoral but criminal. Justice for Kentex workers cannot be served by giving P13,000 in assistance to the families,” declared Wilson Fortaleza, PM spokesperson.

In the rally today, PM members will carry placards with messages like “Kentex, CJC: Kriminal di lang immoral,” “Contractualization kills” and “Labor rights violations kill too.”

PM vows to continue pressing for justice for Kentex workers who were killed and injured in the factory fire last week. Earlier, PM together with the Nagkaisa labor coalition held a candle lighting protest at the Kentex factory. More actions are slated for the coming days.

As Secretary Baldoz called on Congress to put “teeth to the law” by passing pending legislative bills providing for criminal penalties for violations of occupational safety and health standards, PM challenged the DOLE to use its existing visitorial and enforcement powers to inspect establishments to prevent another workplace tragedy.

“Obviously we welcome criminalization of the breach of workplace safety. Still what the DOLE lacks is political will not enforcement powers Article 128 of the Labor Code already empowers the Labor Secretary or her representative to investigate any fact, condition or matter which may be necessary to determine violations or may aid in the enforcement of labor laws,” Fortaleza insisted.

He added that “In the very same industrial compound where Kentex is situated are other factories that we believe are similar sweatshops and possible firetraps. Secretary Baldoz and the DOLE’s labor law compliance officers should waste no time inspecting these Kentex-like sweatshops and firetraps.”

“Kentex and its illegal subcontractor CJC are both small fry. As far as illegal and immoral forms of contractualization is concerned there are bigger fish out there. We have been campaigning already against Asiapro, the biggest supplier of contractual workers in the guise of a labor cooperative. And everyone knows the endo system at SM. But the DOLE has not lifted a finger in these cases,” Fortaleza ended.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Advisory: Workers rally today: “Jail Kentex, CJC owners!”

May 18, 2015
Contact: Wilson Fortaleza @ 09053732185, 09225261138
WHAT: Rally by PM members to call for criminal prosecution of owners of Kentex and its subcontractor CJC
WHEN: Today, May 18, 2015; 10:00 a.m.
WHERE: DOLE Intramuros
DETAILS: Some 50 members of PM will hold a rally this morning at DOLE main office in Intramuros as Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz calls the representatives of Kentex and its subcontractor CJC Services in a mandatory conference. PM is calling for the criminal prosecution of the owners of Kentex and CJC even as the DOLE probes the culpable violations by the two companies.

PM vows to continue pressing for justice for Kentex workers killed and injured in the factory fire last week. Earlier, PM together with the Nagkaisa labor coalition held a candle lighting protest at the Kentex factory. More actions are slated for the coming days.

“Workers who are caught jaywalking can be jailed. The owners of Kentex and CJC deserve no less a penalty for the massacre of some 70 workers and injuries to dozens more. The owners of Kentex and CJC are not just immoral but criminal. Justice for Kentex workers cannot be served by giving P13,000 in assistance to the families,” declared Wilson Fortaleza, PM spokesperson.

He added that “Unfortunately it took the death of dozens of workers to make it as clear as daylight: Contractualization kills! Labor rights violations kill too!”

Friday, May 15, 2015

Justice, labor enforcement reforms demanded in wake of Kentex factory fire

Photo from Phil Daily Inquirer
Press Release
May 15, 2015

The militant Partido Manggagawa (PM) called for stronger labor enforcement and labor inspection in response to the deadly fire at the Kentex factory in Valenzuela that has already claimed the lives of 72 people. Members of PM together with the labor coalition Nagkaisa trooped to the Kentex factory today to demand immediate justice and labor reforms.

"Heads must roll and justice must be served for the needless deaths and injuries to workers,” insisted Renato Magtubo, PM chairperson.

PM lambasted employers for cutting corners in occupational safety in order to raise profits and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for the lax implementation of labor and safety standards. The deaths of Kentex workers comes on top of the loss of lives in several construction sites amidst the current real estate boom. “While capitalists were scrimping on protection for workers and DOLE was sleeping on its job of enforcement, workers are dying in the workplace,” Magtubo elaborated.

He averred that Accidents are not acts of divine providence that can be dismissed as unavoidable. Instead, accidents are the result of unsafe acts and therefore preventable by strict enforcement of occupational safety and health and labor standards.”

“We propose that the DOLE deputize labor leaders as labor inspectors. In so doing the number of inspectors and inspections can be increased several fold overnight, enforcement can be strengthened immediately, and workers lives and limbs can be saved,” Magtubo recommended.

He noted that the DOLE’s “Labor Laws Compliance System” (LLCS) inaugurated in 2013 and the hike in the number of labor inspectors to almost 600 is still not working. An audit by the International Labor Organization in 2009 revealed that with only 193 labor inspectors to inspect 784,000 companies, an establishment gets inspected only once every 16 years.

“A big loophole in the so-called LLCS is the focus on ‘voluntary compliance’ and ‘self-assessment’ by employers. Voluntary compliance and self-assessment means that the government is asking the wolf to guard the sheep. No wonder the sheep get slaughtered,” Magtubo criticized.

He added that “The DOLE has again been caught sleeping on the job. DOLE must review contractors and their principals for compliance not just with safety regulations but labor standards such as payment of minimum wages and benefits, observance of working hours and remittance of social security among others. Contractual workers are among the most overworked yet underpaid of employees since they are unorganized.”

News reports have cited survivors as saying that agency workers at Kentex had below minimum wages, were not given hazard pay and social security contributions were not remitted.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Nagkaisa calls for thorough investigation on Valenzuela factory fire

Photo from Phil Daily Inquirer
14 May 2015

A coalition of labor groups offered sympathies to the victims of a deadly fire in Valenzuela City as it called on concerned government agencies to conduct a fair, speedy but thorough investigation on this tragedy that caused death and injury to at least 60 workers.
“The high death toll from this inferno strongly indicates a complete breach of safety protocols required for industries.  Life certainly matters, but justice for this kind of catastrophe goes beyond legally required compensation.  Factory owners and industry regulators must be held criminally-liable for this tragedy,” said Renato Magtubo of Partido Manggagawa (PM), one of Nagkaisa! convenors.
Josua Mata of Sentro ng Nagkakaisang Manggagawa (Sentro) suggested that investigations do not just determine the cause of fire but must dig deeper into why dozens of workers were fatally trapped in the second floor of the factory building.
“The country’s occupational safety and health standards (OSHS) do not only require workplaces to be safe from hazardous and flammable substances but also must be equipped with necessary infrastructures that address emergencies like contamination, fire or explosions,” said Mata.
Initial reports said the fire came from the stock of chemicals in the first floor of the building where a welding work is also being done.
Alan Tanjusay of ALU-TUCP, on his part, said: “this tragedy could have been prevented had government agencies, which include the labor department and local government units, strictly enforced the OSHS requirements in workplaces.”
Leody De Guzman of Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) advised the families of victims of Valenzuela fire to organize themselves and press charges against the owners of the footwear company.
The Federation of Free Workers (FFW) likewise called on concerned government agencies to extend the necessary financial and legal assistance to the victims. 
The National Confederation of Labor (NCL) believed a substantial number of establishments all over the country are not compliant with occupational health safety standards because of corruption in government agencies.

Meanwhile Annie Geron of PSLINK, a confederation of public sector unions, bewailed the fact that quality public service, which include ensuring the safety of all workers at all times, remains missing or stuck in a state of downgraded priority in the government bureaucracy.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Workers to PNoy: Labor justice needs powerful execution, not endless dialogue

01 May 2015
A big march to Malacanang with simultaneous actions in other cities nationwide marked today’s celebration of Labor Day as workers protested the government’s failure to address their bottom line issues such as jobs and job security, living wage, trade union rights, and decent working and living conditions.
In Manila, thousands of workers from different federations and labor organization comprising the Nagkaisa! coalition marched from Mabuhay Welcome Rotonda to Mendiola under the theme, “Hustisya sa Manggagawa at Sambayanan.”
The cry for justice, according to Nagkaisa!, is labor’s summation of failed engagement with President Aquino, whom the group insisted, “never stood on the side of labor since the PAL dispute in 2011” despite the rhetoric of ‘tuwid na daan’.
“President Aquino should have learned a valuable lesson from his last minute intervention on Mary Jane’s case. That in order to move a quixotic boulder up the mountaintop, a firm decision and solid determination is needed -- a resolve he never had in addressing labor problems during the last five years in office,” said Partido Manggagawa (PM) chair Renato Magtubo and one of Nagkaisa! convenors.
The group disclosed earlier that none of labor’s bottom line issues such as contractualization, low wages and power rates reduction have been addressed by Malacanang after four years of dialogues.
“During the last five years we didn’t ask President Aquino to produce miracles.  Yet a simple certification of pro-labor measure such as the Security of Tenure bill to regulate contractualization did not even warrant his attention,” said Josua Mata, Secretary General of Sentro ng Nagkakaisang Manggagawa (Sentro), another convenor of Nagkaisa!  
Labor justice, he added, needs a powerful execution and not endless dialogue.
Another convenor, Annie Geron of the Public Services Labor Confederation (PSLINK), public sector unions are disappointed that the President was not even aware of the fact that the government bureaucracy itself is implementing a widespread and worst kind of contractualization called ‘job orders’.
However, Nagkaisa! conceded that President Aquino has earned credits for saving the life of Mary Jane Veloso.  But the group said that won’t change the fact that beyond his buzzer beater intervention on Mary Jane’s behalf, many labor issues that translate into social problems like human trafficking and the exodus of Filipinos to foreign lands persist.   
“Filipino are hopelessly enmeshed in an unchanging political system serving the affluent elite and betraying the destitute millions. They sense that no one is fighting for them,” said Gerard Seno, Vice President of Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP)-Nagkaisa!
Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) President accused the Aquino administration of perpetuating the old system of elite rule.
“PNoy has resolutely protected controversial allies and lifted no fingers on political dynasties. But never had he shown a grain of disposition for the working class,” said De Guzman.

Other than Manila, labor marches were also held in the cities of Cebu, Bacolod, Davao and General Santos.