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.

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