KiK still defaulting
“Foreign buyers don’t care about the working conditions at the factories here. A 30-minute visit to the factory would have revealed that the labourers are provided with none of the facilities that the owners claim in the documents sent to buyers.” - Nasir Mansoor, National Trade Union Federation of Pakistan.
The fire at the Ali Enterprises factory in Karachi was the biggest industrial tragedy in Pakistan to date. The only buyer from the factory at the time, garment discounter KiK, has still not paid long-term compensation to the victims, apart from some immediate relief shortly after the 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 not yet contributed any compensation at all.
In November 2014, in response to a petition filed by the Pakistani Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) and other organisations that represent the victims, the Sindh High Court directed the Pakistan authorities to release death grants to the families of the deceased workers. The amounts are to be deposited with the court, which is then to proceed with disbursement of the payments.
Prosecuting those responsible
The factory owners are out of jail on bail. In the recent order the Sindh High Court had shown its displeasure towards the Investigation Officer for causing delays in the criminal proceedings and ordered the head of Karachi Police to appoint another senior officer to supervise the criminal trial.
The Clean Clothes Campaign, along with other labour rights groups from Pakistan and North America, initially aimed their campaigns at the German company KiK. This German retailer was the sole buyer at Ali Enterprises, and CCC called on them to pay compensation to the families of those killed and injured.
In January 2013 the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) and KiK signed a Memorandum of Understanding, which established the process for delivering initial compensation payments to the victims amounting to US $1million. The contributors to the fund were KiK, the factory owners and local benefactors. This covered the initial costs, including the burial of the dead and the medical costs of the injured. However, the amount of the initial compensation fell far short of the total amount needed.
Dubious safety certification
Besides KiK, the certifying body Social Accountability International (SAI) is also considered to bear responsibility for the tragedy. SAI has therefore been requested to contribute to the compensation, since it is thought to have acted negligently. The SAI inspections one month before the fire concluded that the factory met international labour standards, and failed to reveal the barred windows and the lack of fire exits.
The Clean Clothes Campaign and other organisations continue to campaign for the immediate negotiation and payment of long-term compensation to the victims’ families as well as to the injured workers of Ali Enterprises. In September 2014, actions to commemorate the two year anniversary of the tragedy were held in Pakistan, The Netherlands, Germany and Austria. For a full overview, see our special page on the subject