KARACHI: Scores of people affected by the Baldia factory fire took to the streets on Thursday against a proposal to disburse financial compensation among them through workers’ social security and pension institutions, which they deem ‘corrupt’.
Rallying from Regal Chowk to press club, the victims’ families demanded that the amount of $5.15million from the German company KiK should be distributed through the Sindh High Court (SHC) to make the process hassle-free and transparent.
The German company had agreed in September this year to pay long-term compensation to the affectees of the fire at Ali Enterprises from where it procured the largest chunk of its products. Addressing the participants, Saeeda Khatoon, the senior vice-president of the Ali Enterprises Fire Affectees Association, said that they feared that the amount will be embezzled if handed over the Sindh Employees Social Security Institution (SESSI) or Employees Old-Age Benefits Instituion (EOBI).
As the agreement was mediated by the International Labour Organisation between the representatives of the workers and the German company in Geneva, it proposed that the amount should go the victims through SESSI or EOBI.
The victims are, however, sceptical of the process and insist that they admire the SHC process and were also familiar with it, as a similar amount from the government was paid to them through the same channel in the past.
The event was organised by the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) and representatives of different unions and workers from different industries participated in it in a bid to express solidarity with the fire affectees.
Nasir Mansoor, NTUF deputy general secretary, told The Express Tribune that in light of the proposal it seems that the affectees will undergo more problems than they already have suffered in the struggle for their right.
“When there is one established way to distribute the amount transparently, why would you go the other way which is not so good?” he asked, explaining what he believed was the worsening situation at the two workers’ welfare institutions in question due to nepotism and corruption. He added that these institutions had their own set of rules and regulations in which the pension or compensation plan to a parent of a worker who died while on the job was different from the plan to his/her spouse. “It will bring in a complex issue,” he said, stressing that first there was a need of bringing reforms in these institutions. “But, let’s not make these victims wait longer.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2016.
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