Kentex spotlighted workers’ plight
May 13, 2015, was a day that the families of the workers of Kentex Manufacturing Inc. would never forget. That day, 72 workers died, most of them women, from the fire that burned the factory where they were working. Twenty others of their coworkers are still missing. Kentex was one of the Philippines’ leading suppliers of slippers. According to news accounts, fire broke out inside the factory when welding sparks were caught in a container full of sealant material.
The factory was said to have had no fire alarms, no fire exits, only one door through which the workers could enter or go out; and the garage door, where trucks were parked, was locked; while the windows were blocked by grills and chicken wire. Witnesses to the tragedy say that the workers could have escaped if not for the grills on the windows. Most of the bodies found after the fire were near the blocked windows.
The tragedy presented a hideous reflection of the poor work conditions at many factories in this country. It exposed not only the unfair treatment of factory workers but also the extent they would go to fend for their families. It showed us how the masses are oppressed in their poverty in order to make them produce more at lower costs so that their bosses will earn more profits. It showed us how factory owners are “allowed” to forego measures that will ensure their workers’ safety just so they can cut production costs.
This is not the first factory tragedy we heard. In 2012, 17 workers died in Novo Factory, Butuan City; in January 2014, 12 workers died when a wall collapsed in a factory in Bulacan; four months later, eight workers died in an illegal electronics warehouse in Pasay City. All tragedies or their victims have not been given justice.
It is unnerving to see people in power blinded by greed, more greed, insatiable greed. Kentex’s owners must be made accountable for putting their workers at risk and causing their death.
Aside from accommodating workers in more humane and safe work environments, they must be given all the rights they are entitled to—rights that are widely denied them. We owe so much to our workers; they provide us many things we need. They deserve their rights. They deserve to be free from fear, from any kind of repression by people in power.
—JULIE ANNE DIMAPILIS, University of the Philippines Baguio, [email protected]
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