Baldia factory fire: Victims’ families accept compensation decision

KiK formally agrees to pay another $5.15 million


Photo Athar Khan/Zubair Ashraf September 11, 2016
A man mourns his loved ones whose portraits have been put on the fourth anniversary of Baldia Factory Fire. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

KARACHI: Considering it an initial victory in their movement against ‘brands exploiting labourers for profit’, the families of Baldia factory fire victims welcomed the decision that the German company, KiK, will pay another $5.15 million as compensation to them.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) facilitated the agreement between KiK and the representatives of the victims, IndustriALL Global Union and Clean Clothes Campaign, on the request of the German federal ministry of economic cooperation and development. KiK, which stands for Kunde ist Konig — German for Customer is King — is a European cloth discounter headquartered in Bonen, Germany. The company reportedly procured more than 70% of the products made at the ill-fated Ali Enterprises factory.

Baldia factory fire: A tale of continuous struggle and broken promises

According to the agreement, which has been confirmed by ILO country director Ingrid Christensen in an email to The Express Tribune, KiK will provide another $5.15 million to support the affected families and survivors of the incident. Earlier, it paid $1 million in the early stages of negotiations. The amount will be distributed among the victims and the payments are expected to begin in early 2017. The Sindh High Court will preside over the payment process as it did in the past. Each family is expected to get around Rs1.7 million.

Meanwhile, the case is being heard by the Regional Court of Dortmund, Germany. Recently, the court had issued an initial decision, accepting jurisdiction over the case and granting legal aid to the claimants to cover the lawsuit cost, informed European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights vice-legal director Miriam Saage-Maass, adding that the decision is the first step towards dealing with the human rights violations committed by the German companies abroad. According to the order, a translated copy of which has been obtained by The Express Tribune, the court has directed to collect evidence as well as a written legal opinion on Pakistani law concerning the situation.

“It is just the first step towards success. Still a lot more needs to be done to make sure no one else suffers the way we have,” said Ali Enterprises Fire Affectees Association senior vice-president Saeeda Khatoon, while addressing a gathering on the fourth anniversary of the tragedy. Two-hundred-and-sixty people were killed in the blaze at Ali Enterprises garments factory in Baldia Town on September 11, 2012. Deemed as one of the worst industrial disasters, the incident made headlines, especially in Europe and Asia, raising eyebrows on the labourers’ safety at workplaces.

“We know that our loved ones would neither come back nor any amount can fill up their absence,” said Khatoon, who lost her only son in the deadly fire. “But at least with these kinds of agreements, the brands will realise their responsibility towards people who work for them.”

Remembering the lost ones

Almost all the families of fire victims and survivors attended the gathering to mark the fourth anniversary of the incident outside the ill-fated factory on Sunday. The event was organised by the Ali Enterprises Fire Affectees Association in collaboration with the National Trade Union Federation.

Baldia factory fire was planned by extortionists, says JIT report

 

NTUF deputy general secretary, Nasir Mansoor, said that the gathering being held annually at the same venue was not meant to only remember the lost ones - it was to also make sure that no such disaster ever takes place again.

“The factory owners have not learnt anything from the tragedy,” said Mansoor, mentioning Saturday’s incident of Bangladesh factory boiler explosion in which, according to reports, some 25 labourers have been killed while 100 others are wounded.

He criticised the Pakistani authorities for not taking any action against the Ali Enterprises owners - Abdul Aziz Bhaila and his sons, Arshad and Shahid - for trapping the workers inside the factory during the fire. Even the man whose name surfaced in the joint investigation team’s report was given a ‘clean chit’ after he joined a particular political camp, he said, referring to Anis Kaimkhani, who left the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and formed Pak Sarzameen Party with former mayor Mustafa Kamal.

Comparing it with the gas chambers of Hitler, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research director Karamat Ali remarked that the Baldia factory fire incident was not an accident but a mass murder. He said that there should be a difference between a jail and a factory because safer and healthier workplaces were not a privilege but a right of labourers.

The adviser to the chief minister on labour, Saeed Ghani, Edhi Foundation head Faisal Edhi and Habib Bank Workers Front leader Habibuddin Junaidi were among the others who spoke at the event. The moot called on Ghani to ensure a labour inspection system in factories and also demanded that the burnt site of the factory should be turned into a monument and a training institute for labourers on safety.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 12th, 2016.

COMMENTS (1)

Amir | 5 years ago | Reply What happened to the investigation that this was a case of arson? Bhatta collection? A criminal act rather than an accident?
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