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Workers' Memorial Day Duterte Challenge ( 2017)

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Workplace safety NGO Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (IOHSAD), together with the workers of Kentex Manufacturing Corporation, whose factory burned down two years ago and killed more than 72 workers, picketed the Justice Department’s office today to mark Workers’ Memorial Day.

The labor red-letter day is aimed at remembering workers who have died due to work. IOHSAD and the workers of Kentex condemned the government’s continuing inaction in relation to the Kentex factory fire, as well as the fire that gutted the House Technology Industries Ltd. last February.

“This year’s commemoration of Workers’ Memorial Day is more relevant as we remember the nameless 1,328 HTI workers who remain unaccounted until now. Almost three months after the fire, the Labor Department has not released the final report of its investigation. Worse, it has become powerless in the face of the HTI management’s refusal to submit themselves to any investigation,” said Nadia De Leon, IOHSAD advocacy officer.

IOHSAD said the government continues to refuse to learn the lessons from the Kentex factory fire as almost two years after, another workplace tragedy occurred inside the Cavite Export Processing Zone that injured hundreds of workers and claimed the lives of five workers.

Until now, there are no updates about the 1,328 unaccounted workers mentioned in the preliminary report released by the Labor Department several weeks after the incident.

“The worsening conditions in the workplace and blatant violations of occupational health and safety standards are alarming and pose great danger to the workers. The workers’ testimonials gathered by members of the National Fact Finding Mission tell how they work in precarious conditions. What makes it more disturbing is that big foreign companies inside export processing zones can easily get away with their violations of health and safety standards,” De Leon said.

De Leon said the workplace tragedy also exposed the flaws the government’s policy on labor laws compliance system that depends on the employers’ voluntary compliance with labor standards including standards on health and safety.

“The government needs to act swiftly and resolutely on the alarming working conditions of workers in the economic zones. It should start by answering all the questions regarding the HTI fire and forcing the management to publicly present themselves through an investigation. We appeal to President Duterte to act on our demands,” De Leon stated.

The Workers’ Memorial Day Duterte Challenge
(#WMDDuterteChallenge)

1. TRUTH.
To erase all questions regarding the HTI fire, we challenge Pres. Duterte to order an investigation on the HTI fire. We ask him to show his fierce stance not only in relation to criminals and drug pushers but also to stubborn companies that consistently violate OHS standards putting the workers in constant danger.
2. JUSTICE.
To speed up the trial on the Kentex case. Justice delayed is justice denied, and it is simply unacceptable that one of the biggest factory fire tragedies in the country’s history is taking this long in the courts.
3. Pass House Bill 64 or the Occupational Health and Safety Bill.
Pres. Duterte should certify this as an urgent bill. It has already been approved at the House of Representatives but is still awaiting a Senate version. This law will legalize mandatory inspection of factories on adherence with health and safety standards and impose stiffer penalties and longer period of imprisonment for capitalists who violate OHS standards, especially those who are responsible for workers’ deaths.