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Owner of factory in Valenzuela fire violated Labor Code - DOLE

(Updated 5:47 a.m., May 16, 2015) Kentex Manufacturing Corporation, which owns the slipper factory that burned down in Valenzuela City, violated the Labor Code by getting the services of a subcontractor that was not registered with the Department of Labor and Employment.
The warehouse was hit by a fire on Wednesday that caused the deaths of at least 70 of its workers. 
"I need to say this in the wake of this deadly fire accident. The company has engaged, and is engaging, the services of an illegal subcontractor, a violation of the Labor Code, and therefore, it is responsible for the subcontractor’s workers," said Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz.
According to the initial report of DOLE-National Capital Region Director Alex Avila, the unregistered subcontractor that Kentex worked with was CJC Manpower Services in Bulacan. It was formerly known as Panday Management and Labor Consultancy.
He said that CJC had 104 workers deployed at Kentex when the fire happened. Based on the list of missing persons prepared by Valenzuela City’s Department of Social Welfare and Development, 36 of those missing are CJC workers.
Avila pointed out in the report that during the time of the DOLE's assessment of Kentex on March 3, 2014, there were no CJC workers at the factory. He added that it appeared that Kentex got CJC's services after it was jointly assessed and issued a corresponding Certificate of Compliance. 
"Based on this report, Kentex used the legitimacy of our assessment as a cloak to circumvent our laws. I am very much disgusted by this kind of behavior," Baldoz said. 

'Below-minimum wage'

Agence France-Presse reported that the factory that produced cheap sandals and slippers for the domestic market, were paid well below the minimum wage of P481 pesos or $10.90 a day. They were reportedly denied a host of legally mandated benefits.

The employees were reportedly forced to work 12-hour days, seven days a week without overtime pay, had legally-required social security and health insurance payments withheld, and were forced to constantly inhale foul-smelling chemicals.

Atty. Renato Paraiso, the lawyer for Kentex, said all the regular employees of the warehouse received the right salary with complete benefits. He denied the previous reports that they were underpaid.

However, he didn't say the same for contractual employees, which were handled by CJC.

The manpower services is yet to coordinate with Kentex, the lawyer said.
Avila added that the footwear company also employs piece-rate workers, whom it directly hired. This issue will be covered in the investigation.

Meanwhile, Emmanuel Madiclom, whose wife, daughter and sister-in-law were still missing as of posting time, spoke with GMA News Online about conditions at the factory. “Pakyawan sila, ibig sabihin, ang bayad sa kanila ay depende sa kung ilang ang matatapos nila sa isang araw,” Madiclom said.

His wife Marieta, 50 has been working at Kentex factory for 15 years while his daughter Joanna, 27, has been working there for 10 years.

Madiclom said that his wife and daughter usually made around P300 to P400 a day, and that they worked long hours - usually between 10 hours to 12 hours a day.

“Kasi ang sabi sakin ng asawa ko, kung hindi daw sila mage-extend ay sobrang liit lang ng mauuwi nila [na sweldo]. Wala silang overtime pay dahil hindi naman sila regular employees. Hindi nga din sila contractual e, basta binabayaran lang sila sa bawat piraso (ng tsinelas) na matatapos nila sa isang araw,” Madiclom explained.
The DOLE has already summoned the management of Kentex and CJC Manpower Services to a mandatory conference on Monday at the DOLE–NCR.
"We will not sacrifice the goodwill of the many employers who have expressed faith in the DOLE’s new Labor Laws Compliance System over the ill-intent and deceptive behavior of a few employers," Baldoz said.

"The standards, not only of legality, but more so the morality, in the conduct of business of such few employers then becomes an issue," she added.  — reports from Elizabeth Marcelo, Trisha Macas, Cedric Castillo and Agence France-Presse/JDS/NB, GMA News