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Workplace safety NGO hits gov’t media blitz over Kentex

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A health and safety organization said today that more than two weeks after the tragic Kentex fire which claimed the lives of more than 72 workers, the Aquino government has merely resorted to a media blitz with little action on the demands of the families and survivors for justice.

The Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (www.IOHSAD.org) recalled that Malacanang in its statement issued last May 16 said that heads will roll for those who will be found to be lenient in implementing labor and safety standards.

“Where are the heads that Malacanang promised to roll? It is already clear that grave violations have been committed. Why are the owners of Kentex still at large and officials of the Labor Department not held accountable for their failure to ensure the safety of workers?” asked Nadia de Leon, IOHSAD Advocacy Officer.

During the House of Representatives Committee on Labor and Employment inquiry on the Kentex Fire held last May 20, DOLE-NCR Director Alex Avila and the Labor Laws Compliance Officers (LLCO) who performed the inspection were not able to present valuable proof to validate the Certificate of Compliance they issued to Kentex eight months before the fire.

When the LLCO was asked to present any photo to prove the presence of fire exits in the factory, he was honest enough to say that he was not able to take pictures because he didn’t bring his government-issued tablet. The issuance of gadgets to the 574 Labor Laws Compliance Officers is part of the $1M grant given by the International Labor Organization to the Labor Department to support its new labor laws compliance system last 2014.

“DOLE’s Department Order No. 131-13 (Rules on Labor Laws Compliance System) serves as a license for employers to disregard workers’ safety. Compliance with occupational health and safety standards should not be based on the employers’ willingness to disclose their violations. The Labor Department should take the main responsibility for inspecting workplaces and ensure that conditions are safe for workers,” De Leon added.

“We challenge President Aquino to certify as urgent the passage of House Bill 4635 or Workers’ SHIELD (Safety and Health Inspection and Employer’s Liability Decree) which was filed by Rep. Emmi De Jesus and Rep. Luz Ilagan of Gabriela Women’s Party in June 2014. The proposed bill gives the Labor Department the responsibility to perform mandatory inspection of businesses in the country. It also outlines appropriate penalties, both monetary fines and imprisonment, to employers who violated occupational health and safety standards,” she said.

“These crucial times demand action and not empty promises or long-overdue realizations from the government. When will the government end its investigations and start working? Workers and their families want justice, now,” De Leon said.