Baldia factory fire victims’ heirs go to German court


Karachi: A delegation of European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR)showing concern on the human rights related plights of Pakistani workers has said that in Germany the High Court of Dortmund will hear the case of four heirs of Baldia factory fire victims, adding notwithstanding with what is the cause of factory fire, the factor of the lack of safety measures in Ali Enterprises could not be ignored.

They were addressing a crowded press conference at the Karachi Press Club (KPC) here Tuesday, arranged by the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF)

They expressed heart-felt sympathy with the bereaved families of earthquake in Pakistan and Afghanistan and demanded of the government to take steps on war footing basis for early rescue and rehabilitation of the survivors. They appealed to the organizations of workers in whole world to play their due role in expressing solidarity with the survivors.

The German delegation accompanied by Pakistani labour leaders said three years have already passed of the Baldia factory fire incident but the owners of the Ali Enterprises, international brands and the government have failed to meet all demands of the heirs of victims. They regretted that the government also failed to take solid steps so that the incidents like the Baldia factory fire tragedy not happen in future. They said despite the verdicts of apex courts and the international accords inked by the government, the workplaces in Pakistan still are virtual death-traps for workers. There is an unholy alliance of government agencies, factory owners, international brands and social audit companies to deprive workers of their due rights of legal wages, work hours, health and safety at workplace, social security, pension and the right to make labour unions. Due to this anti-worker attitude today the chances of happening of Baldia factory fire incidents have raised multifold.

To ensure that fatal factory incidents do not repeat in future, the NTUF and Association of the Affectees of Baldia Tragedy have held a general body meeting on October 25 in which the heirs of more than 200 martyred workers took part. The representatives of ECCHR Miriam Saage and Carolijn also attended the general body meeting and briefed it about the progress of the case of the four Affectees in the High Court of Dortmund, Germany.

They said the German court has been hearing the plea. They said the rumors about the causes of the fire do not affect the legality of this case. Irrespective of what was the reason of the fire, the fact that the workers burnt alive due to lack of safety measures cannot be ignored. Had there proper safety measures taken, the workers could have been rescued safely when the factory had caught fire. The German brand, KIK (whose goods were being produced in the Ali Enterprises) filed their comments on March 2015. Now the lawyers of the affectees are preparing to file his comments and it is expected that the first hearing of the case would be held in February 2016.

The German delegation members said it is very important that the affectees are not only demanding compensation from the KIK but also demanding an apology with the families of the victims and other affectees and a pledge that it would not work with any factory that violates the rights of workers. They said that godown workers of KIK head office in Bönen have already gone on strike for better wages and trade union rights and they also have expressed solidarity with the affectees and announced that they would extend all help to the affectees when they visited Germany. They said the case in the German court is also focus of attention of Germany and European Union. All major newspapers and TV channels have given good coverage to this case. However, the members of the German parliament have also contacted the KIK and ECCHR in this regard.

They said that many leading legal experts have been discussing the case and supporting it. On 11th September 2015 some Italian legal experts have also filed a case on behalf of 500 affectees against the Italian social audit company RINA that had issued social audit certificate to the Ali Enterprises. The lawyer of the Affectees has also talked with the representatives of RINA in this regard and so far they have rejected the demands of the Affectees and soon legal action would be taken against them.

They said that the ECCHR feels that this is not only an industrial mishap but also the result of the faulty system of international textile brands, which ignores the basic human rights of workers. In the modern production network, local factory owners, local labour inspectors, international audit companies and international brands are equally considered responsible for such mishaps. They said the Ali Enterprises case would prove a milestone in defending labour rights as this is first case where a European court is hearing the crime of violation of human rights, carried out not in the EU, but outside the EU, i.e., in Pakistan.

They demanded that the government of Pakistan and its labour-related departments should fully implement the local and international labour laws.

– The labour inspection system should be modernized and fully implemented.

– The Affectees should be given lifetime pension cards, group insurance and gratuity.

– For the martyred workers whose DNA tests are yet to be verified, the DNA certificates should be issued.

– Prime Minister, Chief Minister and Malik Riaz should fulfil their promises with the affectees.

– KIK and RINA should accept their responsibility and meet all demands of the heirs.

– Illegal contract system of labour should be abolished.

– Appointment letters should be given to workers at the time of their recruitment.

– All workers should be registered with the departments of social security and pension.

– Workers should be given the right of making their labour unions.

– Labour inspection system should be fully implemented and workers’ health and safety ensured.

– The labour organizations should be consulted while issuing audit certificates to factories.

– To ensure implementation and monitoring of the rights under the GSP+ the consultation and participation of the labour organizations should be made mandatory.

Those spoke included Nasir Mansoor, central deputy general secretary NTUF, Mohammad Jabir, Abdul Aziz and Saeeda Khatoon of the Association of Affectees of Baldia Tragedy, Miriam Saage and Carolijn of ECCHR, Zahra Khan, general secretary of Home-based Women Workers Federation, Riaz Abbasi general secretary NTUF Sindh and Gul Rahman President NTUF Sindh.