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Workers killed making clothes for Primark, TOPMAN, Burton, New Look, River Island

14 September, 2015Four workers died and sixteen were injured when the roof of a garment factory collapsed on 5 September in Lahore, Pakistan. The factory was operating in a poorly constructed building and producing for Primark, TOPMAN, Burton, New Look and River Island.

Jeans Company Private Limited was registered in 2010 and was producing jeans, shirts and caps for the well-known brands. Around 1,150 workers were employed in the factory but because it was a Friday, most of them had left their workstation to attend Friday prayers. Only 40 workers were present when the roof of the factory caved, otherwise there would be more casualties.

IndustriALL Global Union general secretary Jyrki Raina said:

Garment factories are still dangerous in Pakistan and in Bangladesh garment companies are making much too slow progress in improving factory safety. There is still too much complacency among global brands: how many more dead bodies do we need before brands take responsibility to ensure safe working conditions for all the workers who contribute to their multibillion dollar profits?

The roof of the factory was in a poor condition, built with canes and mud. Recently, on the rooftop a number of chemical-filled drums had been stored by the management, which could be a reason for the collapse. Six persons including the factory manager were arrested after the accident.

IndustriALL affiliates in Pakistan condemn the incident and have raised their concerns over health and safety issues in the garment sector. Niaz Khan, General Secretary of the Ittehad Labour Union for Carpet Industries demanded that the Government restore and activate factory labour inspection and ensure the safety of workers at the workplace. Under pressure from several sides, the Chief Minister of Punjab announced compensation of Rs. 500,000 (US$ 4,800) for deceased workers and Rs. 100,000 for injured workers.

In addition, Pakistani trade unions are also ensuring that deceased workers’ families will receive Rs. 400,000 of their insurance claim. Nadeem Parwaz from the Pakistan Textile, Garments and Leather Workers' Federation said that they are in the process of establishing relations with the families and kin of the deceased workers, so that support could be provided to them.

The incident is likely to raise questions about the country’s industrial safety policy since many factories are running in poorly built buildings and in a shabby condition, causing a major threat to workers’ lives.

The third anniversary of Pakistan’s worst industrial accident in the garment industry, Ali Enterprises, 11 September, is being marked by loud calls on German retailer KiK to pay compensation to the victims who were killed whilst making KiK clothes.