The families of 57 people who died in the Philippines’ worst factory fire have dropped their claims against the company in exchange for a US$3,360 settlement, a company lawyer said on June 23.
Relatives of over a dozen other workers who died in the May 13 fire at the two-storey Kentex Manufacturing factory in suburban Manila are expected eventually to agree to a similar figure, according to an AFP report.
The fire at the factory which made rubber slippers claimed 72 lives and sparked outrage over the allegedly unsafe conditions which contributed to the high death toll. A welding machine is believed to have caused the blaze, giving off sparks which set chemicals alight.
The lawyer said the settlements were negotiated with Labour Department arbiters who were present to explain the consequences to the families.
Paraiso 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.
Philippine Labour 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. It said the management could face charges of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide as well as labour law violations for using contract workers.