Victims of worst Philippine factory fire settle out of court for US$3,360
Families of 57 of the dead in the Philippines’ worst factory fire have dropped their claims against the company in exchange for a 151,200-peso (US$3,360) settlement, a company lawyer said Tuesday.
Families of more of the workers who died in the May 13 fire at the two-storey Kentex Manufacturing factory in suburban Manila are expected eventually to agree to the settlement, said Kentex lawyer Renato Paraiso.
The fire at the factory which makes rubber slippers claimed 72 lives and sparked outrage over the allegedly unsafe conditions which contributed to the high death toll.
Labor groups also denounced Kentex for relying on contract laborers who were not paid regular salaries.
However Paraiso said the settlement includes a waiver against any further claims against Kentex.
“More or less, we gave them what is due to them,” he told AFP.
He said the settlements were not achieved through coercion, stressing that they were negotiated with Labor Department arbiters present to explain the consequences to the families.
Paraiso also said Kentex was not to blame for the fire since it was started by sparks from welders hired from a third company to repair a gate.
“We have no liability regarding what happened. It is just the moral obligation of the management in looking after the workers,” he said.
Lawyers for the families of the dead could not be contacted for comment.
The minimum wage for a worker in a large factory is set at 481 pesos per day or about US$10.70.
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said the settlements would not protect Kentex management from any criminal charges.
The Department of Justice is investigating the fire after allegations that the factory did not have sprinklers or adequate fire exits and had bars on the windows which prevented people from escaping.