72 workers died in a fire in a slippers factory in Valenzuela City, Philippines, on 13 May. With no proper fire exits and barred windows, workers had no means of escape.
As the fire started, workers in the rubber footwear factory were trapped on the second floor as bars on the windows stopped them from getting out. There was a lack of fire exits and staff had not received proper fire training.
72 workers were killed, and the death toll may go up as bodies remain on the second floor of the burned-out factory.
The fire is though to be caused by welding carried out close to inflammable chemicals.
Kentex Manufacturing Inc. produces flip-flops and rubber slippers for domestic market and employs around 300 workers. According to reports, the company hires workers through a “fly-by-night” subcontractor, CJC Manpower Services, an agency not registered at the labour department. Out of more than 300 workers in the factory, only 54 are regularly employed.
Aside from non-compliance to safety and health standards including a lack of fire safety standards, an initial report from the labour department has found that the company paid workers’ below the statutory minimum wage, as well as withholding pensions, health benefits and other forms of social security.
IndustriALL Global Union affiliates in the Philippines are coordinating with the labour department in the investigation into the fire.
IndustriALL regional secretary in Asia Pacific, Annie Adviento, says:
Those responsible for this fire and for not enforcing regulations must be held accountable. We must make sure there will be no more tragedies where workers pay with their lives.