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Safety is our right, not a privilege

12 September, 2019The quest for workplace safety continues in Pakistan, as unions and workers remembered the victims of the 2012 fire at Ali Enterprises in Pakistan, which killed hundreds of workers. 

On 11 September 2012, more than 250 workers were killed and over 50 were injured in one of the world’s worst industrial fires at Ali Enterprises, a readymade garment-manufacturing factory in Karachi, Pakistan.

On the 7th anniversary of the tragedy, IndustriALL affiliate National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) and Association of the Affectees of Baldia Factory Fire gathered in front of the factory to remember their loved ones and co-workers.

Participants included a minister from the Sindh provincial government, survivors of the accident, family members of the victims, garment workers, social and political activists.

Saeeda Khatoon, chairperson of the victims association, said:

“In order to get justice and to bring closure to this great loss in our lives, the law enforcing agencies should pursue the legal process to punish those responsible for the accident. Workers lives must be respected and no worker in Pakistan should face a similar situation in future.”

It took four years of united campaigning to reach an agreement with German brand KiK, who sourced from the factory, to pay compensation of US$5.2 million. In May 2018, victims started receiving compensation.

Still, after seven years victims have a long way to go to get justice. The government and buyers need to do more to improve occupational health and safety in Pakistan's garment factories.

Nasir Mansoor from NTUF said:

“Workers continue to suffer hazardous working conditions. The government has diluted the labour inspection regime when it should to be strengthened to improve safety. The occupational health and safety law passed by the Sindh government in 2017 should be implemented, and Pakistan must abide to ILO core labour conventions and GSP plus commitments.”

Valter Sanches, IndustriALL general secretary, said:

“We honour the departed and stand in solidarity with the victims and their families in their struggle for justice. The government of Pakistan should deploy adequate financial and human resources to address the health and safety crisis in factories.

“Efforts to replicate initiatives like the Accord on fire and building safety in Bangladesh in Pakistan should be expedited. These efforts should involve genuine consultation with Pakistan's unions. IndustriALL will continue to work in collaboration with all stakeholders to ensure safe working conditions for readymade garment workers in Pakistan.”