Philippines: Families of Kentex fire victims take legal action vs. owners, local gov't officials, & contractors; wins case for unpaid wages

74 workers were killed after a fire at Kentex Manufacturing footwear factory in Manila on 13 May 2015. Reports say workers were trapped after a welding triggered explosion. The factory had about 200 workers - 150 of them were in the factory at the time of the fire. Unions are accusing the company of exploitative labour standards and poor health & safety procedures. Kentex says it will provide compensations to survivors and victims’ families. A number of families of victims are taking legal actions against Kentex factory owners and the government department that issue a permit - while other families have settled the case.  

In July 2019, the Supreme Court ordered CJC Manpower Services to pay Php 1.44 million in backwages to 57 workers. This is the contractor that deployed workers to Kentex.

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Article
21 May 2015

Labour dept. & Bureau of Fire Protection to ramp up efforts to ensure proper working conditions in factories

Author: Katerina Francisco, Rappler

"Palace: More inspections after Kentex fire", 16 May 2015

Malacanañang said...that the labor department and the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) will be ramping up efforts to ensure proper working conditions in industrial workplaces...Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte explained...that "the labor department is also intensifying their inspections when it comes to the industrial work places like the one in Valenzuela." Valte added that Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz already has initial reports on Kentex Manufacturing engaging the services of a subcontractor that is not registered with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)...The labor chief said that representatives of both Kentex Manufacturing and the sub-contractor CJC Manpower Services have been summoned to a special meeting with the DOLE...Valte added that Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II was also making sure that the Fire Code – through the BFP – is properly implemented, with necessary permits issued based on compliance with fire and building codes...The special inter-agency task force, including members from the national police, the fire-fighting service, the justice and health departments, have been given two weeks to finish their investigation, said spokesman Renato Marcial."Definitely, if someone deserves to be punished, they will be punished,"...The fire started when sparks from a welder repairing a metal gate apparently ignited nearby chemicals. Marcial said that Kentex should have secured a special permit for such a dangerous welding job and its owners could face charges for safety lapses. This could range from 6 months to 6 years in jail but the scale of the fatalities could result in more stringent punishment...Marcial said the investigation will be "complete, thorough and based on scientific findings."

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Article
21 May 2015

Senator seeks inquiry to review implementation of Fire Code

Author: Katerina Francisco, Rappler

"Review of Fire Code sought after deadly Valenzuela blaze", 21 May 2015

A senator is seeking an inquiry in the Senate to review the implementation of the Fire Code of the Philippines...Senator Cynthia Villar has filed Senate Resolution No.1346 which directs a Senate committee to conduct an inquiry on the mechanisms, rules, and guidelines in the implementation of Republic Act 9514 or the Fire Code of the Philippines, and of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) standards...The senator also said the possible violation of the Fire Code, which requires a fire safety inspection before the issuance of a business permit, should be probed. In its investigation, the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) said Kentex was able to operate despite the lack of a fire safety certificate. Some survivors also claimed that many of the factory's workers failed to escapebecause the windows were barred with wire and grills, and the fire exits were locked. The Valenzuela city government said that it issued a provisional business permit to Kentex, but added that it was the BFP's responsibility to inspect the factory within 3 days. 

 

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Article
21 May 2015

Valenzuela mayor says monetary compensation offered by Kentex is negigible

Author: Katerina Francisco, Rappler

"Kentex offers fire victims 'negligible' compensation", 15 May 2015

Valenzuela City mayor Rex Gatchalian hit the monetary compensation offered by a footwear company to the relatives of the 72 workers killed...He said the amount was "negligible" compared to the suffering the families went through...[T]he factory's lawyer told survivors and families of the victims that they would be given money – the due salary on the 15th of the month plus a few days' work and overtime..."just to tide them over." But Gatchalian said he was "extremely disappointed" with the compensation offer, adding that the amount was "negligible compared to what the families lost and went through...This goes to show what type of employer Kentex is and how they treat their employees."...Earlier, both the local city fire bureau and the labor department said Kentex Manufacturing Corporation had passed fire safety inspections and occupational safety checks...The workers, who produced cheap sandals and slippers for the domestic market, were paid well below the minimum wage of P481 ($10.90) a day and were denied a host of legally mandated benefits, survivors of the blaze and victims' relatives...[said] According to other media reports, workers were paid only P202 a day. In a meeting with the families of the victims, Kentex lawyer Renato Paraiso asked for patience in the disbursement of other benefits due to the families under the law. Paraiso explained that the company's administrative and accounting employees also died in the fire, and the company's records destroyed.

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Author: AFP

« L'usine incendiée de Manille met en lumière l'exploitation des ouvriers aux Philippines », 15 mai 2015

L'incendie meurtrier d'une fabrique de chaussures de Manille...dans [lequel] 72 personnes ont péri mercredi dans une zone industrielle de la capitale, figure parmi les accidents industriels les plus meurtriers de l'histoire de l'archipel. Mais les conditions de travail des ouvriers de Kentex Manufacturing, et en particulier les normes de sécurité défaillantes qui régnaient dans l'usine, n'ont rien d'inhabituel dans ce pays…d'après le gouvernement et les syndicats…L'usine fabriquait des sandales et des chaussons bon marché destinés au marché local. Les survivants et les familles des victimes ont raconté que les employés étaient payés largement en-dessous du salaire minimum et étaient privés d'avantages sociaux pourtant obligatoires…Les autorités ont…dénoncé la présence de barreaux aux fenêtres du deuxième étage de la fabrique incendiée, qui ont empêché de nombreux employés de fuir les flammes, entraînant ainsi leur mort. L'avocat de Kentex…a toutefois assuré qu'ils avaient été installés pour éviter les vols…

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Article
18 May 2015

Philippines: Fire at Valenzuela factory exposes labour abuses; Kentex says it will provide compensation

Author: Agence France-Presse

"Valenzuela fire death trap highlights sweatshop abuses", 15 May 2015

The deaths of 72 people in a fire that gutted a footwear factory in Valenzuela city has exposed abusive conditions for millions of poor and desperate workers across the Philippines. The tragedy...was one of the country's deadliest workplace accidents. But the alleged exploitation of workers at the factory, where lax safety standards caused the fire, is anything but unusual across the Philippines, according to the government and unions. "The deaths should serve as a wake-up call for businessmen to stop these abuses....They should give their employees dignity," Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz...[said] Baldoz scored the owners of the company that owned the factory, Kentex Manufacturing, branding them as "immoral" and accusing them of a raft of illegal labor practices...The workers, who produced cheap sandals and slippers for the domestic market, were paid well below the minimum wage of P481 ($10.90) a day and were denied a host of legally mandated benefits, survivors of the blaze and victims' relatives...[said] They said workers were forced to toil 12-hour days, 7 days a week without overtime, had legally-required social security and health insurance payments withheld, and were forced to constantly inhale foul-smelling chemicals.The government said the fire was caused by welding being carried out near flammable chemicals, highlighting what workers described as a casual approach to workplace safety in which there were no fire drills.

In a forum organized by the factory owners...Kentex lawyer Renato Paraiso told survivors and the families of the victims and casualties that they would give them money – the due salary on the 15th of the month plus a few days' work and overtime – on Saturday, "just to tide them over." Paraiso asked for patience in awaiting other benefits due them under the law, as people from the Kentex administrative and accounting office also perished in the fire that burnt company records as well. "Just give us a chance. We will provide all your benefits as provided under the law," he said. The lawyer also said Kentex is trying to get in touch with the agencies that supplied some of its manpower, after it learned that these labor providers did not remit the employees' contribution to the Social Security System (SSS). Kentex gave the full amount to these agencies, the lawyer said, adding that the company will provide legal assistance, if needed, to those who may want to pursue legal action against the manpower agencies. Paraiso also said that Kentex is coordinating with local government officials regarding the agencies

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Article
15 May 2015

“The lessons of Rana Plaza have still not been learned”, says UN Working Group on business & human rights

Author: UN Working Group on business & human rights

The United Nations Working Group on business and human rights today said that “the lessons of the Rana Plaza disaster have still not been learned.” The experts’ warning comes after a new tragedy in the global garment industry involving the death of more than 70 factory workers in a fire in a shoe factory in Manila this week.  “The tragic death of factory workers, mainly women, is a stark reminder of the urgent need for action to protect workers in the garment industry, despite of the Bangladesh Accord for Fire and Building Safety, created two years ago, on the same date as the Manila shoe factory fire,” said Michael Addo, who currently heads the expert group...The group of human rights experts also expressed their profound sadness and condolences to the families of the factory workers who lost their lives in the Manila shoe factory this week...

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Article
14 May 2015

Death toll after fire at Kentex slipper factory climbs to at least 72, dozen remain missing

Author: Guardian (UK)

"More bodies found in Philippines slipper factory fire", 14 May 2015 

Officials said the death toll in a rubber slipper factory fire in a suburb of the Philippines’ capital had climbed to at least 72...as police continued to retrieve charred bodies from the gutted building. Dozens more remained missing and feared dead. A fierce blaze quickly took hold of the Kentex Manufacturing...factory in Valenzuela city north of Manila...Eduardo Nazar, village council chief of Ugong where the factory is located, said: “The [police forensic officers] will do all they can to identify the victims because they are totally burned.”...[T]he fire was apparently ignited by sparks from welding work being done at the factory’s main entrance door, triggering an explosion of the chemicals used to make the slippers. Workers fled to the second floor where they were trapped, he said. He was unsure if there were any fire escapes there.Tiu, the fire marshal, said the building had other exits but apparently the workers were overwhelmed by the thick black smoke from the burning rubber and chemicals, which are highly flammable and caused the blaze to spread quickly.

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Article
13 May 2015

Deadly fire engulfs Philippine footwear factory

Author: Al Jazeera

At least 31 workers have been killed and many others remain trapped inside after a fire hit a footwear factory in a suburb of the Philippine capital, Manila. A fireman who gave his name as Soriano said on Wednesday that 31 bodies had been found, adding most of the victims had died of suffocation. "There could be more buried under debris," he told Reuters news agency. "There was someone who was welding at the main entrance and suddenly there was an explosion. It was really fast."...

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