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No lesson learnt from Baldia factory fire incident

F.P. Report

KARACHI: Workplaces are still unsafe as the government, owners of industries and international brands have learnt no lesson from the Baldia factory fire tragedy despite passing of six years, said speakers of a gathering held in front of the Ali Enterprises factory in the memory of the martyrs on the sixth anniversary of Baldia factory fire martyrs, here on Tuesday.

The event was arranged by the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) and Association of Baldia Factory Fire Affectees, presided over by association leader Saeeda Khatoon. Families of the martyred labors, injured and representatives of local and international labor organizations attended the event.

The speakers said due to the criminal negligence of stakeholders workplace mishaps are occurring continuously. They said that socio-economic progress is possible through following the labor laws and improving working conditions for labors. They asked that the workers should be given their basic and fundamental rights of making trade unions.

They said six years have already passed but the heirs of the martyred and maimed workers are still waiting for justice. They have knocked the doors of court at local and international level so that justice could be doled out to them. They are still protesting against the accused of the big mishaps in the industrial history. They said labors are forced to work in the worst conditions in factories and workplaces. There is no visible change in standards of their working condition. Resultantly, industrial accidents are being reported almost daily and precious lives of workers are being lost. The dreadful recent incidents in ship breaking, mining and textile and garment factories are examples in this regard.

The speakers said Pakistan has become such a country where the uphold of labor laws and constitutional rights has become next to impossible. The institutions formed by the government for welfare of labors have failed to discharge their duties and they are fully safeguarding the interests of employers. The working conditions in all industrial entities including garment and textile factories that make goods for international brands are worse than slavery conditions. The owners of local factories, international brands, and the government departments related to labor have made an anti-worker nexus; resultantly, hardly 1percent of 68000000 workers is enjoying the right of making trade unions. In majority of factories the skilled workers are not given even minimum wages prescribed by the government for unskilled workers. In 95percent of factories there is contract system of labor which is against the verdict of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. In the factories there is illegal pattern of working hours, under which there is a time of reporting on duty for workers but no worker can leave the factory unless the factory administration permits him. The right of social security and pension is available to 5percent workers only.

The speakers regretted that all this is happing despite the ILO conventions, GSP Plus, and Global Framework Agreements. The international brands got their goods made in local factories and they deceive their buyers that while making of these products no labor or human right was violated. For this fraud they use the private social audit companies which issue them fake certificates after getting money from them, claiming that these factories are respecting the international labor and safety standards.

The labor leaders said that the Baldia Factory Fire tragedy on one hand has exposed the dark aspects of working conditions and on the other hand the affectees have organized themselves and with the help of local and international organizations they have exposed the culprits, and with their struggle they have compelled the government to issue pension to heirs of the martyrs and give them death grant. They have also compelled the German brand to pay $1million compensation initially and then pay $5.15mn so that life pension could be given to the heirs. They said the role of Clean Cloth Campaign (CCC), Industrial Global Union, European Center for Constitutional and Human Right (ECCHR), Medico International, International Labor Organization, German Government, Sindh labor department, and Sindh Employees Social Security Institution (SESSI) is praiseworthy.

They said that in the next phase of their struggle, more than 500 affectees have prepared to file suit against the Italian social audit company RINA. Moreover, Pakistan and international organizations have jointly filing complaints against the RINA in OECD. They said that the cases filed by the NTUF for groups insurance and gratuity are in the final phase.

They demanded that the government of Sindh should fulfill its promises with the affected people and arrange jobs and residence for them.

The affected factory should be razed and a labor training center should be built there in the memory of the martyrs.

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