LABOR Secretary Silvestre Bello III was urged by two labor groups not to save the owners of the Home Technologies Inc. (HTI) from the possible crimes it committed against its Filipino employees.
On Saturday, Luke Espiritu, Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) spokesperson, said the incident “should not be dismissed as just another ‘accident.’ The spate of workplace fires in the country— such as the one that killed 74 workers at the Kentex factory in Valenzuela in 2015—is the result of the systematic failure of the government to strictly enforce occupational-safety regulations to ensure the well-being of the very people who produce the country’s wealth.”
Lawyer Jose Sonny Matula, president of the Federation of Free Workers (FFW), stressed that DOLE Sec. Silvestre Bello 3rd, should investigate the fire incident to ascertain what are the possible violations on the Labor laws that have been committed by the owners and management of HTI.
HTI employs more than 10,000 employees including contractual workers from five manpower agencies.
Both Espiritu and Matula strongly prodded Bello to ensure that health and occupational standards imposed by the Labor Code must be implemented by all business establishments in the country.
They argued that failure to do so will only repeat what happened to HMI and Kentex Corporations in the future.
It should be remembered that the Kentex in Valenzuela City was gutted down by a fire in May 2015 that resulted to the killing of about 74 employees, majority of them were women.
Until now, the people who could have been responsible for the death of the contractual workers at Kentex due to their neglect of their duties and obligations, including local government and fire department officials, have not suffered even a day in jail for the crime they committed.
“Until now, no one in high places has been punished for a fire that killed 74 people. This is a travesty of justice and this will only ensure that similar tragedies will likely happen again in the future,” Espiritu said.
In relation to HMI incident, Espiritu called on President Rodrigo Duterte to put up a “high-level commission composed of people of unquestionable integrity to investigate workplace conditions in the country, particularly in export processing zones.”
He said “These export processing zones [like the one in Cavite] are like independent countries. Laws and regulations tend to be even more weakly enforced in those zones in an attempt to entice investors, therefore exposing hundreds and thousands of workers to greater risks.”
“This is [the reason] why we call for a high-level commission that will have the power to inspect these and other workplaces and recommend how best to hold capitalists and government agencies accountable for ensuring the safety of our workers,” he pointed out.
Actually, Matula emphasized that “accidents [like Kentex in 2015 and the HMI] are preventable if only there is strict enforcement of occupational safety and health standards. This is covered or under the visitorial and enforcement power of the secretary of labor and his regional representatives under Article 12 8 of the Labor Code.”
The FFW strongly “lament the gross negligence which caused lives and limbs, if there is only a union which can represent the workers and call the attention of the management on violation of rules on safety standards– no such accidents would have happened,” Matula added.