Kentex wants vindication, insists it was an ‘accident’

Members of labor groups light candles on Friday as they hold a sympathy protest in Valenzuela City, in front of the gates of Kentex footwear factory. They urged the government to take legal action against the company's owners and local officials for the death of 72 workers in the fire that razed the factory. (MNS photo)

Members of labor groups light candles on Friday as they hold a sympathy protest in Valenzuela City, in front of the gates of Kentex footwear factory. They urged the government to take legal action against the company’s owners and local officials for the death of 72 workers in the fire that razed the factory. (MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) – The lawyer of Kentex Manufacturing Inc. said the company “suffered a total business loss.”

Despite this, he said the owners’ families and friends have pooled their resources together for the initial compensation of survivors and kin of the victims in the massive fire last week, said Kentex lawyer Renato Paraiso.

In a press conference, Paraiso said the company “suffered a total business loss. They have no funds to compensate the employees, but the family and their friends pooled money for the immediate relief of employees.”

Each kin and employee, whether regular or agency-employed, was given P8,000 back pay and P5,000 assistance over the weekend.

He said he has yet to look into other company assets. As it is now, he said it’s hard to communicate with family members of the owners because they were also victims of the fire.

One owner is in the hospital for third-degree burns, while another is also confined after experiencing stress and trauma.

He said the company is insured, but he has yet to see the document to be sure.

“We’re just balancing our resources and our expected obligations. If we have excess, we would give it out,” he said.

A welding activity near combustible materials has been blamed for the massive fire that killed 72 employees at the footwear factory in Valenzuela City last week.

Investigators led by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) are now probing whether or not the company followed work safety and labor standards.

Paraiso denied that regular employees were underpaid. He also added the company had a “certificate of compliance,” which meant that the factory followed safety standards.

“We are one with the employees in resolving this right away. We want some sort of closure and vindication that this is an accident. The only way to prove that is through the investigation,” he said.

The employees of CJC Manpower Services are a different story, however. Most have complained of receiving below-minimum wages and non-remittance of their contributions to the Social Security System.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz has described Kentex as “immoral.” Agence France-Presse quoted her as saying, “they are not only illegal, they are immoral. This employer, they don’t have a sense of social responsibility.”

DOLE-NCR chief Alex Avila said their probe will look into how much Kentex and CJC owe the employees. But, “there is no amount that would be equivalent to the loss of a life.”

Avila and the other members of the DOLE panel met with Kentex on Wednesday to get necessary documents, such as the number of workers employed and proof of wage payments.

They were told that some of the documents were also burned.

Kentex was given until Friday to produce other documents.

“The basis of the probe is to also give them the chance to prove their side… In the end, DOLE wants social justice delivered in this case,” Avila said.(MNS)

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