KARACHI: Only 190 workers at ill-fated Baldia factory were registered but the Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI) has announced it is giving all of them, the victims and survivors, a monthly Rs3,600 pension.
According to EOBI chief Javed Iqbal, the national database authority is providing them DNA matches of survivors and victims so they can draw up a list. On Monday, 25 cases were finalised. “The minimum pension for the dead is around Rs3,600 and the same applies to the injured,” he told The Express Tribune. “But it varies from case to case and the tenure of service.”
A total of 185 workers have been identified and the first compensation was handed by the Bahria Town group at Governor House Monday. The federal and Sindh governments have separately announced compensation for the dead and injured.
There is a total labour force of 56 million in Pakistan out of which 33 million work in agriculture, which does not come under EOBI’s purview. This leaves 23 million workers. “Only six million of them are registered with EOBI and there is no record for the remaining 17 million,” he said. Factory owners are responsible for regisration and not the EOBI. “Either they over report or under report things.”
He said they were reviewing the rules under the Factory Act of 1934. “We want to follow some refined rules at par with international standards. Very soon we will be able to start an inspection campaign,” he added. Labour leaders have, however, criticised the government for delaying inspections. “There is no rocket science to it,” said Sharafat Ali of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research. “They are making things complicated to avoid it.” They should first check for fire and civil defence systems and then the labour department and district administration can monitor registration to take action against factories flouting the rules.
Civil defence is attached to the home department. It has offices in the district headquarters but workers and their organizations complain it has not been working for years. “Ideally this department should work 24 hours,” said Noor Muhammad of the Pakistan Workers Confederation, Sindh. The department installs fire alarms, deals with medical emergencies and rescue services. Noor Muhammad, who spent most of his life working at factories, said that there used to be a civil defence warden’s office in every registered factory in Karachi.
Faisal Rashid, the director of the Sindh Employees Social Security Institution (SESSI), said they would be compensating the workers as well. “We will pay whatever our board decides,” he said. “Normally we give around Rs0.3 million as death compensation .”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 18th, 2012.