20 September, 2012IndustriALL Global Union argues that freedom of association and trade unions are the best way to prevent further workplace tragedies, after it is revealed that certification of the Ali Enterprise factory in Pakistan by a prominent monitoring group issued just weeks earlier did not prevent the fire that killed nearly 300 workers, many of them trapped behind locked exit doors.
According to the report of the New York Times, published on 20 September 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/20/world/asia/pakistan-factory-passed-inspection-before-fire.html inspectors of a prominent factory monitoring group, Social Accountability International, heavily financed by industry rendered two visits to the Pakistani apparel plant last month, just weeks before a fire engulfed the premises and killed nearly 300 workers.
Analyzing the certification process in Pakistan the report questions the entire factory monitoring system used by multinational garment and electronics companies to approve their use of low-cost suppliers in the developing world.
Many of the conditions supposedly part of the prominent SA8000 certificate issued to the Ali Enterprise factory in Karachi, including provisions about health and safety, minimum wages and absence of child labour, were not respected. Workers had no union representation and faced closed doors, lack of emergency exits and barred windows.
When interviewed after the tragedy, the workers said that they were threatened by management if they told the truth on what was happening inside the factory during the time of the certification process. They could not use their basic rights including the right to freedom of association, and the only condition of a safe working climate is if workers’ concerns are openly sounded through their own freely elected representatives.
In a letter to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Jyrki Raina, General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union, said, “If workers, who are day by day in the factory, have no way to report and be protected from the employers when reporting, there is always a huge risk that such a tragedy in one form or another happens again.”
Raina demanded compensation for all workers of the factory both registered and unregistered, as well as to their families and insisted on proper involvement of trade unions in the investigation and distribution of compensations to the workers.
Raina adds, “Dear Mr Prime Minister, IndustriALL Global Union, representing 50 million industrial workers in 140 countries, offers its cooperation to the Pakistani government to improve safety and working conditions and thus help restore the damaged reputation of your country as a manufacturing location.”
Earlier IndustriALL and LabourStart.org launched a protest campaign demanding safety at textile factories in Pakistan. To support this campaign follow the link: http://www.labourstartcampaigns.net/show_campaign.cgi?c=1570.