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German retailer KiK targeted by families of fire victims

19 December, 2014More than two years after 259 garment workers died in a devastating factory fire in Pakistan, victims’ families have issued a legal notice against German retailer KiK demanding it pays compensation.

Relatives of five workers who perished in the Ali Enterprises fire in Baldia Town, Karachi have sent the legal notice to Germany’s biggest discount textile chain through a German lawyer. KiK was the factory’s only known customer.

In January 2013, KiK signed a compensation agreement with the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research to make an initial compensation of US$1 million to victims but the company has continuously delayed the payments under various pretexts.

KiK claims to take to control of the enforcement of labour laws and security standards of its suppliers. However, according to reports doors were locked and windows barred at the Ali Enterprises factory with victims unable to escape the fire.

At a Karachi rally organized by IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), and the Baldia Factory Fire Affectees Association on 14 December, speakers called on KIK to pay compensation as per International Labour Organization (ILO) standards. 

Organizers also urged Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, to fulfill his pre-election promise to pay government compensation to the families of victims.

Addressing the rally, which included the children of the victims, NTUF deputy general secretary Nasir Mansoor said that the safety situation in Pakistan’s garment factories had not improved despite the Baldia tragedy:

“Our factories and industries are still sweatshops and torture places for workers, and resultantly industrial mishaps are happening continuously. Due to non-functional labour inspection the occupational health and safety arrangements in factories are almost non-existent. Local industrialists and their international companies feel it their right to violate local and international labour laws and standards. They suppress the right of workers to form their own unions and earn huge profit by making quality products through cheap labour and selling them in American and European markets on huge profit margin.”

Rally participants demanded that KiK pay Rs 500,000 (US$ 5,000) per family as interim relief and pay the final compensation according to ILO standards without delay.

The protestors also demanded that compensation of Rs 300,000 (US$ 3,000) promised by Prime Minister Sharif when he was opposition leader should also be paid immediately otherwise a hunger strike protest camp would be established in January.