Leading today’s nationwide protest against contractualization and for a national minimum wage, workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno stormed the Department of Labor and Employment to demand justice for the victims of the House Technology Industries (HTI) fire in Cavite.
“We demand justice for our fellow workers in HTI. The HTI management, the Philippine Economic Zone Authority and the Department of Labor and Employment must be held accountable for their disregard for workers’ health and safety that led to yet again another tragedy resulting in the injury of hundreds of workers and possible loss of lives,” said Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson.
KMU demanded that there should be a thorough and independent investigation on the tragedy as they fear of a whitewash of the HTI and PEZA’s culpable violations of health and safety standards.
“There should be a swift investigation on the incident to avoid a whitewash of HTI and PEZA’s occupational health and safety standards violations. It is enraging that until now, the cause and actual number of casualties remain unclear to the public. A fire that resulted in the injury of hundreds of workers is not a mere accident. The HTI and PEZA should not go unpunished,” Labog said.
KMU along with other labor institutions held a fact finding mission at the Cavite Export Processing Zone yesterday and cited that most of the workers they interviewed were hesitant to speak for fear that they may not receive compensation from the Japanese firm.
Labog meanwhile claimed that the HTI tragedy highlights the gross exploitation of Filipino workers, especially in special economic zones, under the neoliberal economic policies promoted by the Duterte administration’s economic managers.
“Like majority of today’s workers, HTI workers are mostly contractuals, their wages are way below living standards and are deprived of their right to unionize and to collectively bargain. These are neoliberal attacks against workers that the Duterte administration failed to address. Worse, his economic managers are even promoting these gross anti-worker policies,” said Labog.
After their program at the DOLE, Workers marched to Mendiola to hold the Duterte administration accountable for its failure to address their legitimate demands to end contractualization and implement a national minimum wage of P750 a day for private sector workers and P16,000 for government employees. Similar protests were also held at DOLE regional offices in key cities across the country.
“In his first six months, Duterte has failed to fulfill his promise of ending contractualization. His DOLE even promotes and legitimizes this anti-worker practice through Secretary Bello’s DO 168. Duterte has also failed to heed our demands for a significant wage hike through a national minimum wage. The administration has been eager to increase taxes and the prices of basic goods and services but remains uncommitted to giving workers a substantial wage hike.” said Labog.
KMU meanwhile warned that the Duterte administration could expect bigger protests as it continues to fail in heeding workers’ legitimate demands for regular jobs and for a national minimum wage.