KARACHI: The Baldia factory fire victims have demanded that the $5.15 million compensation amount should be disbursed at once instead of in installments, to avert any possible complications.
The demand was made during a general body meeting of the fire affectees at Pakistan Medical Association auditorium on Sunday. The event was jointly organised by National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) and Ali Enterprises Fire Affectees Association (AEFAA). Around 260 people were burnt to death in a fire at Ali Enterprises garment factory, dubbed Baldia factory, located in Baldia, on September 12, 2012.
The representatives of the victims' association and NTUF senior vice president Saeeda Khatoon had recently accepted the compensation decision offered by the German company KiK, which was the major buyer of the products made by the factory, that it will pay $5.15 million to the affectees. The agreement was reached between IndustriALL Global Union and Clean Clothes Campaign, the representatives of the victims, and KiK in Geneva, Switzerland, along with the mediation of International Labour Organisation on the German government's request.
Khatoon said that the agreement was a success on their part as they continued their struggle against those companies and corporations exploiting labourers for the sake of profits. Endorsing the decision, Khatoon added that a committee, comprising NTUF, AEFAA and other organisations, should be involved in the compensation disbursement process, to make it more transparent and to solve the issues.
Meanwhile, NTUF president Rafiq Baloch urged the federal and provincial governments to register all the factories and manufacturing facilities and ensure safety measures so that incidents similar to the Baldia factory fire can be averted. He welcome the anti-terrorism court's recent decision to include the factory owners and others in the charge sheet. Baloch alleged that some elements in the police and the government were trying to help the factory owners get away with the mass murder by just highlighting the terrorism factor. A petition will be filed with the Sindh High Court against any such move, he explained.
Around seven demands were also made during the meeting. The participants demanded that a committee comprising NTUF, AEFAA and other organisations should be made to make the compensation disbursement process transparent and the amount should be given at once.
It was also decided that factories and all other manufacturing facilities must be registered while the labour inspection system, health and safety measures should be ensured. The associations have demanded that September 11 be commemorated as health and safety day and the law pertaining to it should be renamed after the Baldia factory fire victims. The affectees have also said that the site of the factory should be converted into an institute where workers will be given health and safety training.
They have also demanded that Italian social auditing company RINA must admit its responsibility over the fire incident and tender an apology to the families of the victims along with compensation. Moreover, they have demanded that the private social auditing system in Pakistan must be replaced with labour inspection system. It was also decided that efforts on government level to save factory owners from legal proceedings must be stopped and those involved in this carnage must be held accountable.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 26th, 2016.
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