“Noong makalabas na ako sa building, nakita ko ang ibang mga manggagawa, karamihan ay babae, na tumatalon mula sa bintana ng 2nd at 3rd floor. Mayroon pa ngang buntis.”(When I was already out of the building, I saw workers, mostly women, including a pregnant woman jumping out of the window from the 2nd and 3rd floor.), a survivor recounted.
Women WISE3 expresses strong concern over these accounts, the company and the authorities seem indifferent about those allegations. A week after the huge fire that gutted the House Technology Industries in Rosario Cavite, a credible probe has not been conducted and doubts over no fatalities except those two male workers who died in the hospital linger. Gov. Remulla reiterated several times that only 126 were injured, accounts say otherwise.
Last February 4-5, 2017, a multisectoral National Fact-Finding Mission (NFFM) led by the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) and Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER) was conducted to investigate the incident. Initial NFMM report raised concerns over a number of workers, witnesses and survivors who were hesitant, often evasive to answer inquiries related to the tragedy. The report also notes that two important things contradictory to the official (local government) reports given to the media: (1) Accounts underscored that were workers more women who were trapped inside the building during the panic, (2) there were exits which were locked, and workers from the 2nd and 3rd floors of the building resorted to breaking windows to get out.
The findings also indicated that the contractual or agency-hired workers were not included in the head count conducted contrary to the company claims that “all workers were accounted for”. Testimonies from survivors also suggest that more women workers may have been trapped in the 3rd floor of the building, as there are more women working in the Quality Control department. The list of those injured and eventually treated and confined at the hospital contains only 25 women out of 126 total injuries. While Women WISE3 would not desire negative impact for women, the allegations that more women jumped out of the window belie the official claim.
HTI, the biggest and acclaimed as“best” company in the Cavite Export Processing Zone (CEPZ) or in Cavite as a whole was issued by PEZA a compliance certification. PEZA however did not say, what does it require to be certified as compliant. Most probably, PEZA does not cover the fact that casuals directly hired by HTI have to transferred to six manpower agencies after 3 months to become agency workers for as long as two years. When they passed the evaluation that it was only then that workers could be rehired by HTI. There are about 13,000 plus workers at HTI, of whom 5,000 more are contractuals. Contractual or agency-hired are overworked and are deprived of same benefits that regular workers receive.
In 2013, fire also hit the company but as the same, the company, PEZA and LGU kept mum over the incident.
Industrial fires, like in Kentex Manufacturing Corp in 2015 and the HTI fire, are never just accidents. But until and unless, inspection and compliance are voluntary on the part of the company, workers occupational safety and health will be compromised. OSH standards have to be legally enforced.
On February 10, Women WISE3 joined its fellow workers and workers’ rights advocates in a protest action at the Welcome Rotondain Quezon City to call for justice for the victims of the fire in the House Technology Industries. Women WISE3 also supports the demand for an immediate, thorough, transparent and independent investigation on the HTI fire, and to hold accountable those who are responsible for this tragedy.#