Still awaiting compensation in Pakistan: one year after Ali Enterprises burnt down

Tomorrow German cost-cutter KiK discusses compensation for the victims of the collapse at Rana Plaza during the meeting in Geneva. Meanwhile, survivors of the fire at the Ali Enterprises garment factory in Karachi, Pakistan, still await full, long-term and fair compensation. German retailer KiK remains the only known buyer of Ali Enterprises garments.
  • Families of  more then 250 workers killed during fire still awaiting full and long-term compensation
  • Brands and auditing organisations called on to take responsibility for garment factory fire.

Today one year ago, when the fire broke out during the late shift, the workers were sewing jeans for KiK, which were left strewn around the debris. The fire killed more then 250 people and left many injured. 

Investigations into the fire found that workers were trapped inside the overcrowded factory by blocked exits and barred windows. Yet, just weeks before auditors from RINA, an Italian audit company contracted by the Social Accountability Acreditation Services SAAS, visited that factory and awarded it an SA8000 certificate. The SA8000 system, run by Social Accountability International (SAI) is supposed to ascertain that workplaces meet international labour standards and local laws, including on fire and building safety. An investigation carried out into the audit failings showed that fire safety certificates collected by auditors had been issued by an entirely fictitious company. Auditors failed to notice an entire mezzanine floor where many contract workers were employed. Another auditing company UL Responsible Sourcing also audited the factory in 2011 and 2007.

In December 2012, following sustained public pressure, Kik signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Pakistani workers' rights organization Pakistan Institute of Labour Education & Research (PILER), in which they agreed to pay one million US dollars in emergency relief. Most of this has now been distributed to families through a commission established by the Sindh High Court. According to the December MoU the amount paid by Kik is not payment in full, and will be subtracted from the final compensation agreed upon.

Long term compensation will be negotiated with all involved stakeholders, employers, audit bodies and possible other buyers, Kik included. SAI, SAAS and Rina have, to date, refused to enter into negotiations on compensation with labour rights groups.

Today PILER, together with the National Trade Union Federation Pakistan (NTUF) and other organisations hold a rally with the victims' families and labour and trade unions at 3:00 pm from Regal Chowk to the Karachi Press Club. After the rally will be a seminar on on health and safety issues at the Arts Council at 5:30 pm in Karachi, followed by a music performance by Pakistani singer Jawad Ahmed. Protests will be held in Islamabad, Multan and Lahore.

The Clean Clothes Campaign is calling on all stakeholders, including social auditing organisations SAI and Rina, KiK, the Pakistani government and the employer,  to actively participate in negotiations to provide full, long-term and fair compensation to the families of those killed and those workers injured in the fire.

“The deaths of hundreds of workers at Ali Enterprises has  highlighted, in the most tragic way, that audits do not protect workers rights. Worse, it has shown that these organisations have no regard for those workers it claims to be benefiting" says Sam Maher from the Clean Clothes Campaign. “The auditing organisations have to be held accountable for their severe negligence and must take their share of responsibility for compensating the victims. The Clean Clothes Campaign will, together with its partners, continue to take action to make sure that the long term compensation is paid.”