Monday, May 18, 2015

NAGKAISA labor coalition calls on creation of a tripartite labor laws compliance inspection task force

The lives and the scathing injury of KENTEX workers are the heavy price for the complete breakdown of government’s labor laws enforcement and for the employers’ patent disregard to the mandatory laws on wages, social protection benefits and the statutory basic workplace safety guidelines.

The KENTEX factory workers’ deaths depict the abominable culture of indifference among many public servants and profit-oriented employers to enforce existing guidelines that uphold workers’ basic rights and well-being.

Therefore, we, the undersigned convenors of the NAGKAISA Labor Coalition, collectively call on Labor Secretary Baldoz to establish a tripartite “Task Force Valenzuela” (TFV) to undertake a surprise sweep and unannounced inspection of factories and plants in the City of Valenzuela to crack down on sweatshops.

In the light of the tragedy that befell our fellow workers in KENTEX, we believe that it now becomes imperative to verify employer compliance with all existing labor laws and safety standards, fire and building structure standards and to determine compliance with all other city requirements for the issuance of business permits and operational licenses.

Justice must now not just be for the KENTEX dead and their families but also for the countless workers nationwide who labor under the same pakyawan system (piecework basis) or through unregistered and unregulated labor manning agencies, to be deployed without any statutory benefits, least of all minimum wages, into firetraps where their lives are sacrificed on the altar of profits. Disposable lives and in the case of the KENTEX workers, thrown away.

We strongly believe that the immoral and illegal activities of the KENTEX owners are actually widespread in Valenzuela, and the inspections should begin in the very factory neighborhood where the fire occurred and with those firms also serviced by the unregistered manning agency. The inspections should also cover those firms that undertook voluntary self-assessments of their labor standard compliance. It is never the best way to enforce labor or safety standards by relying on the mere “say-so” of a very self-interested employer and factory owner.

This proposed crackdown in Valenzuela will have national resonance and will hopefully, by making an example of those who will be caught, ensure that labor standard compliance will be honored more in the practice, rather than in its breach.

We urge the DOLE to seize the historical opportunity to render justice not just for the KENTEX workers but to finally break the widespread culture and practice of corporate irresponsibility that made the loss of the workers lives not just immoral but evil and criminal.

– NAGKAISA Labor Coalition

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