THE settlement between Kentex Manufacturing Inc. and families of the victims of the May 13 factory fire has opened the question whether the company still needs to pay nearly P11 million for labor violations.

Kentex as well as its illegal subcontractor, CJC Manpower Services, have been found liable by the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) for underpayment of minimum wages, non-payment of cost of living allowance, non-payment of 13th month pay for the year 2014, non-payment of holiday pay and special holiday premium, illegal deduction of cash bond of P100 per week, and non-membership of workers and non-remittance of premiums to the SSS, PhilHealth, and Pag-Ibig Fund.

Earlier, Dole – Central Luzon served the compliance order to CJC for them to pay P8,389,655.70 in unpaid benefits to its workers.

In addition, Dole – National Capital Region (NCR) Regional Director Alex Avila has an initial assessment of P2,456,108.21 in unpaid monetary benefits owed by Kentex to its employees.

“Dole will still hear the case and Kentex and workers will appear during the hearing... It will depend on the results of the hearing,” said Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz.

At least 57 families had already signed quit claims, waivers, and releases over Kentex’s accountability over the fire in Valenzuela City that killed 72 workers.

Labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) condemned Kentex for offering a "meager amount" of P151,200, saying it would be better if the families’ lawyers did the negotiations for them as a higher settlement value could have been achieved.

However, the KMU said the settlement must not be taken as already absolving concerned government officials from Dole and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) over their liabilities.

“Cases filed against irresponsible government officials should push through... Responsibility and accountability lay on the shoulders of high government officials,” said KMU chairperson Elmer Labog.

Labog said there is clear accountability on the part of Dole since it is the one that issued the Certificate of Compliance to Kentex while the DILG supervises the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP).

Earlier this month, fire victims filed charges of negligence resulting in homicide and physical injuries at the Office of the Ombudsman against Baldoz, Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II, as well as other labor and BFP officials. (HDT/Sunnex)