Labor group fears HTI fire cover up

MANILA, Philippines - A LABOR group expressed deep concern over how government officials and the management of House Technologies Inc. (HTI) are handling the issue after a fire engulfed its factory located at the Cavite Export Processing Zone in Gen. Trias, Cavite on Wednesday, February 1.

Labor group fears HTI fire cover up
Photo Credit: Facebook/Joseph Magsino
The militant Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) says that they are highly skeptical of the “very slow-paced accounting” of the condition and whereabouts of all HTI employees.

LIST: 104 injured; 10 severely burned in HTI EPZA Cavite fire

“We find it very odd why fire officials have not yet determined if there are indeed fatalities, almost 24 hours has passed after the blaze erupted on the second floor of its factory building but yet they have not released any reported any fatalities. It is also equally disturbing that the management of HTI has not yet determined how many workers were indeed on duty during the time of the explosion,” the group alleged in an emailed statement.

The group calculated that if the Japanese-owned company employed 6,000-7,000 workers and the fire erupted at the time the workers were about to changed shifts as authorities claim then there could be no less than about 3,000 employees within or around the company premises at the moment the fire broke out.

“Their silence and absence of information on the extent of the blaze is not only alarming to the families of all employees on duty during the explosion but also to the public that has not yet gotten over the Kentex tragedy in 2015,” the statement also said.

The BMP expressed its deepest sympathy to the victims and their relatives and encouraged the workers to demand full accountability and full liability from their employer. The group also offered their own legal team to assists the victims in demanding justice.

“Mishaps at workplaces, specially in ISO-certified factories in export processing zones such as HTI are assumed to be fully-compliant to all occupational health and safety standards but the blaze proved that it did not adhere to these standards. Without doubt, HTI should be held accountable. Justice and indemnification are in order,” BMP President Leody de Guzman asserted.

The militants also warned the PEZA, the labor department and the provincial and municipal officials to not cover up HTI’s accountability as well as their own to escape liability.

The BMP believes that similar to the Kentex victims, the employees of HTI were contractual employees that despite the huge profits of the company were forced to endure the company’s circumvention of occupational health and safety and labor standards to maximize profits at the expense of its own workers

“Sweatshop labor under the poorest and most hazardous working conditions would continue to proliferate as long as workers are meek and docile due to the perpetual threat of joblessness caused by cotractualization.

To strengthen the factory inspections of the DOLE, workers should enjoy the freedom of speech and the right to self-organization in order to reveal the real situation at the workplace; such freedoms are curtailed by contractualization.,” De Guzman said.

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