No representatives from Kentex Manufacturing showed up at the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Manila to where they were summoned on Monday for a meeting in connection with a fire that gutted Kentex’s Valenzuela City (Metro Manila) footwear factory last week, killing 72 workers.
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said the meeting was meant to determine if proper benefits, including salaries, were given by Kentex and CJC Manpower to the employees who died in the fire.
Renato Paraiso, legal counsel Renato Paraiso, legal counsel for Kentex, denied receiving any notice for the meeting from the Labor department.
The agency’s spokesman, Nicon Fameronag, however, insisted that an invitation was sent as early as Friday last week and it was received and signed by at least two persons at Kentex.
Fameronag said a second meeting would be called.
If Kentex will again not send representatives, it can be cited in contempt, he added.
Only representatives from the Social Security System (SSS) and CJC Manpower, the agency that supplied workers to Kentex, showed up at the meeting.
Helen Abolencia, vice president for Metro Manila of the SSS, said records showed that the footwear factory failed to remit its contributions to the pension fund while the DOLE said CJC Manpower had no license to operate.
Tension had gripped the DOLE before the meeting began as security guards shuttered the main doors and prevented anyone from entering the building.
In an interview with a television news channel, Kentex’s Paraiso said the factory followed labor standards and safety measures.
He added that it was unfair for Baldoz to label the company as “immoral” for allegedly exploiting its workers.
“They are not only illegal, they are immoral. This employer, they don’t have a sense of social responsibility,” the Labor chief told Agence France-Presse in an exclusive interview last week.
The Labor department argued that Kentex got the services of an unregistered sub-contractor.
Reports said the workers were paid below minimum wage.
“It was a reckless statement made by the DOLE secretary. They have no basis to call the company as ‘immoral’ because we used a recruitment agency to get workers to work for us,” Paraiso told GMA News.
He said it is within the DOLE’s mandate to ensure that labor sub-contractors are operating legitimately.
“I think it’s within their mandate, their job is to inspect these agencies. They should not pass on the responsibility to us,” Paraiso added.
He claimed that Kentex even got a certification from the DOLE that its warehouse has a safe working environment.
Paraiso said Kentex management is confident that it will be spared of any criminal liability when investigation is finished.
To help the survivors and families of the victims, Kentex promised to pay them P8,000 each, which Paraiso said is a standardized form of back pay.
He added that Kentex already gave P5,000 initial cash assistance to each of the families and will also shoulder forensic tests to identify recovered remains and medical expenses of the survivors.
When asked if there is anything more that the management will give, Paraiso said Kentex is planning to give more but it still depends on resources of the owners, who suffered a big loss.