Justice for Kentex workers! Justice for all Filipino workers!

kentexGlobal alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International extends its most heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of workers of Kentex Manufacturing Inc. who died in a factory fire last May 13.

Seventy-two workers have been confirmed dead, mostly women, while 20 more remain missing. Witnesses attest that some 200 were present when the fire consumed the factory.

Kentex, a factory located in Valenzuela City, clearly violated general labor standards and occupational health and safety standards. Despite this, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) had been quick to state that Kentex passed all inspections and exercised strict compliance with labor standards. However, a fact-finding mission conducted by Kilusang Mayo Uno, Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) and the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER) Philippines exposed clear violations, among them, the “mishandling of hazardous and flammable chemicals, absence of proper smoke and fire alarm, and fire exits, and apparent absence of fire and safety drills”.

Migrante International calls for justice for the 72++ Kentex workers. We mourn with Filipino workers and the rest of the nation for this grave injustice and negligence, not only of greedy capitalists but of the Philippine government. We rage against these conditions that continue to place our Filipino workers in unsafe environments and, when tragedy strikes, diminish them to mere statistics of “occupational hazards”.

The Kentex tragedy also brings to light the slave-like conditions and unjust wages that Filipino workers are forced to endure. Kentex workers receive a pittance of daily wages (Php202/day), plus an additional Php187-Php220 daily allowance depending on how long they have been working for the company.

Migrante International condemns in strongest terms slave wages that continue to plague millions of our Filipino workers in favour of greed for profit. It is precisely in search of decent jobs and higher wages that the number of Filipino workers and those leaving for labor migration everyday have been on the rise since Pres. Aquino took office.

At least one-fourth of the country’s labor force has gone abroad to find work. Jobs created are highly disproportional to the ever-growing labor force and underemployed. The number of jobless and underpaid Filipinos increased by at least 600,000 during Aquino’s first year in office alone.

While those who do land domestic jobs, as in the case of Kentex workers, suffer very low wages. Worsening joblessness and underemployment feed on already chronically low wages, with the current minimum wage grossly inadequate to sustain even the most humble of families.

The Kentex tragedy is clear and present testament to how detrimental the government’s labor export policy and failure to curb forced migration are to Filipino workers. The Kentex tragedy is also testament to the Aquino government’s criminal government neglect to protect and uphold the rights and welfare of our Filipino workers, whether they be here in the Philippines or abroad.We call on all Filipino migrant workers and the Filipino people to demand justice for Kentex workers and all other victims of occupational accidents. We call on all migrant workers to join us in demanding justice for Kentex workers. ###