Widow from 2012 factory fire petitions KiK

Widow from 2012 factory fire in Pakistan launches community petition demanding long-term compensation from German company KiK

Yesterday, Mrs. Shahida Parveen, a widow as a result of a 2012 tragic factory fire in Baldia town on the outskirts of Karachi, Pakistan, launched a community petition on the online activist website Avaaz.

Mrs. Parveen is currently campaigning to ensure that she and all the victims of the Ali Enterprises factory fire receive long-term compensation from KiK, a German discount retailer and the sole buyer from the factory.

Her petition and campaign against KiK may be eligible for a $10,000 grant, as recently announced on facebook that Avaaz members will help identify 10 campaigns to support.

On September 11, 2012, a fire ripped through the Ali Enterprises garment factory in Karachi, Pakistan, killing at least 254 people and injuring another 55 people. The fire at the Ali Enterprises factory is now recognized as the worst industrial tragedy in Pakistan to date. Investigations into the cause of the fire uncovered that just weeks before the fire, Ali Enterprises passed an audit on behalf of Italian social audit firm RINA, and received a SAI (Social Accountability International) 8000 certification.  Ali Enterprises received this certification despite the fact that there were no emergency exits; the windows were barred; and an entire mezzanine floor had been illegally built on. Mrs. Parveen’s husband was among victims who burned and boiled to death in the fire. Many survivors where forced to jump from the roof of the building, suffering significant injuries.

“God only knows what happened to my husband and all the people trapped in that factory”, states Mrs. Parveen in her petition. “I never found my husband’s body, even after months of DNA tests. He was among the unidentified bodies, which were eventually buried.” In the petition she describes falling unconscious upon hearing that her husband burned to death in the factory.

In December 2012, KiK, the main buyer (75% to 80% of goods were
purchased by KiK) from the factory at the time of the fire, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) agreeing to make an initial payment to the victims and their families of US$ 1 million for immediate relief, and to negotiate a long-term compensation package with all other involved stakeholders. As per the MOU, KiK contributed US$1 million to the immediate relief fund.

Despite the existence of this signed agreement, KiK has failed to comply with the terms of the MOU. Specifically, with regard to the provision of long-term compensation, KiK has imposed unnecessary delay in the negotiations with PILER on behalf of the victims. The Clean Clothes Campaign is concerned that KiK is engaging in various stalling tactics in order to avoid paying long-term compensation. Additionally, the MOU required KiK to pay a sum of USD 250,000 for future labour standard enforcement, and this also has yet to be paid.

PILER continues to support the victims’ families in Pakistan in their efforts to hold KiK accountable to the terms of the MOU in order to receive long-term compensation for all the victims and injured workers.

Mrs. Parveen identified the reason behind starting the petition, “I’m sharing my story because after all that we have been through, none of us should continue to suffer. And, yet, by denying us long term compensation, KiK is prolonging the suffering of all of the victims of the factory fire.”

The safety audit company RINA and the safety certification body SAI, who issued a safety certificate to the factory just a week before the blaze, have also not yet contributed any compensation.

“It’s clear that KiK is attempting to use their stockpiles of money and power to weasel their way out of taking responsibility regardless of their legal liability”, says Karamat Ali, Executive Director of PILER. “We believe that the arch of justice is on our side, it’s just a matter of time. However, many of these families do not have the luxury of time to continue this fight for justice indefinitely since they are facing the devastating affects of poverty. That’s where this Avaaz community petition and possible grant comes in. Achieving access to such resources and support from the global Avaaz community would be a game changer from us. Right now, people might think of our fight against KiK as a typical underdog tale. With the support of the Avaaz community, the current power imbalance would be realigned, providing for once again David to win against Goliath”.


Background on Ali Enterprises Fire