FOOTWEAR maker Kentex Manufacturing Corp. heeded a call of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to send a representative during Wednesday’s second mandatory conference but still failed to submit vital documents that would prove its compliance with occupational safety and health and labor standards.
The counsel for Kentex, lawyer Renato Paraiso, explained to the DOLE-National Capital Region (Metro Manila) panel that not a single document has been saved from the fire that gutted the slippers plant and left at least 72 workers dead.
“We have not saved anything, everything [was]burned,” the lawyer said.
Paraiso, however, assured that Kentex would not turn its back on its obligations to the workers and their families, saying the firm’s owners would provide an additional cash benefit.
Kentex did not send a representative during the first hearing, prompting DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz to warning the company that failure to attend the second hearing would be construed that it has waived its right to be heard.
The documents on compliance with the standards were demanded by the Labor department after it was found out during the first round of mandatory conferences that Kentex has engaged the services of an unregistered contractor, CJC Manpower Services, which was not paying correct wages and benefits to its own workers.
They were supposed to include the list of workers and receipts of remittances to the Social Security System, PhilHealth and Pag-IBIG Fund.
“Regional Director Ana Dione of our Regional Office in Central Luzon reported that based on the joint assessment, CJC has been underpaying its workers, including not paying the cost of living allowance under Wage Order No. NCR-18 and Wage Order No. NCR-19. Its workers deployed at Kentex Manufacturing Corporation were being paid only P202.50 per day, because it claimed that Kentex has been paying them separately P230 per day.
However, no payroll can support the said claim,” according to Baldoz, citing the report.
She said other CJC violations include non-payment of 13th month pay for 2014;
non-payment of holiday pay and special holiday premium; illegal deduction for cash bond; non-membership of workers and irregular or almost non-remittance of premiums to SSS, PhilHealth, and Pag-Ibig Fund, despite deductions on pay for these social security contributions.
Baldoz added that the DOLE has found out that CJC’s last remittance to the SSS was on April 8, 2015 for January 2015 premiums covering only 19 workers, none of whom was employed at Kentex .
“Its last Pag-IBIG remittance was on 6 May 2015 for February 2015 contributions covering a mere 13 workers, only four of whom were deployed at Kentex. On the other hand, it last remitted PhilHealth premiums on 25 March 2015 for February 2015 premiums unbelievably covering six workers, only three of whom were deployed at the rubber slippers factory,” she said.
Meanwhile, San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza said the Labor department should also be held liable for the fire because it issued Kentex an occupational health and safety standard compliance certificate in September 2014.
“We thus call on all relevant government agencies including the Valenzuela local government unit and the Bureau of Fire Protection to deeply investigate the incident, including the compliance of the factory with existing safety standards,” he added.
The fire gutted the Kentex plant in Valenzuela City (Metro Manila) last May 6.
“If violations are found, there must be accountability and criminal punishment for justice to be attained for the victims and their families,” Alminaza said.
He noted that the Valenzuela incident was the third fire that claimed workers’ lives under the Aquino administration.
“On May 9, 2012, 17 workers of Novo Jeans and Shorts in Butuan City [Agusan del Sur] died when a fire broke out and on April 30, 2014, eight workers of Asia Micro Tech in Pasay City [Metro Manila] died in another fire,” Alminaza, in a statement, said.
He added often tragedies in the Philippines pass without anyone being held accountable.
“We are deeply saddened that not a single capitblist has been judged guilty and jailed for the death of workers in the workplace,” Aminaza said.