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Industrial Mishaps on the rise in Pakistan

Industrial Mishaps on the rise in Pakistan

Speakers at 11th anniversary program of incident demand reinvestigation of Baldia Factory Fire  

Karachi, Sindh

Industrial mishaps are rising sharply in the country as our government and industrialists have learnt no lesson from the Ali Enterprises Baldia factory fire tragedy, said the speakers at a labor gathering on the occasion of the 11th anniversary of Baldia factory fire, outside the ill-fated factory here Sunday.

Eleven years ago, on September 11, 2012, as many as 260 workers burnt alive and more than 60 others injured in the worst industrial mishap in the history of Pakistan at Ali Enterprises Baldia factory Karachi.

A large number of workers, heirs of the deceased workers, political and social workers and civil society activists attended the gathering.

The speakers said that it is sad that the investigation of the Baldia factory fire was marred due to political and ethnic controversies and as the result the main culprits of this tragedy are roaming free. Some powerful elements used the so-called joint investigation team (JIT) to save the killers of innocent factory workers. The findings of this JIT were far from the reality.

Baldia-Factory-Fire-Anniversary-Sindh Courier-1They said that irrespective of the factory fire was accidental or deliberate, the cause of the death of workers was the closure of main exit gates, closure of windows with heavy iron bars, faulty fire extinguisher equipment and lack of training to workers about using firefighting equipment. Moreover, the building structure of the factory was illegal, there was a boiler inside the factory and there were no emergency fire alarms installed. The causes of the death of workers included criminal negligence of the factory owners coupled with violation of labor laws.

Representatives of the heirs of the affected workers pointed out that the German brand KIK had paid 6.1 million dollars as a long-term compensation under an international agreement and for investment of this amount and to settle the related issues in Pakistan an oversight committee was formed comprised of the heirs, workers, the government of Sindh and the representatives of the ILO. Sadly, the ILO without taking the representatives of heirs and workers in confidence invested the funds provided by the German brand in an insurance company without giving information about how much amount was given to that insurance company. Despite the repeated demands of the representatives of the heirs and workers, the ILO office in Karachi refused to share the documents about the agreement with that insurance company. However, the ILO for unknown reasons has disbanded the oversight committee, due to which the affected workers are facing immense problems in getting their issues resolved.

Moreover, a representative of ILO in Karachi with help of an official of SESSI is threatening the affected families, they alleged.

Baldia-Factory-Fire-Anniversary-Sindh Courier-2The speakers said that the affected families have not gotten the group insurance and gratuity funds despite the passage of eleven years. However, the factory owners have already razed the building of the factory and it is said that the property is sold out also. They said that the NTUF with collaboration of local and international labor organizations would erect a monument there in the memory of the martyred workers.

The participants of the gathering demanded to ensure steps for proper health and safety in workplaces; Sindh Professional Health and Safety Act should be implemented, immediately; reinvestigation into the Baldia factory fire tragedy should be initiated and the real culprits should be punished as per law. They asked that as per the decision of Sindh High Court, the EOBI pension of the parents of the martyred workers should be revived; the government should take over the factory and freeze bank accounts of its owners, till the heirs of the martyred workers are paid group insurance; a labor training institute should be established in the memory of the martyred workers.

They demanded that the agreement between the ILO and the insurance company should be shared with the heirs and labor organizations; independent investigation should be held to ascertain why the ILO inked agreement with a certain insurance company in non-transparent manner without consulting with the heirs and workers organizations; the disbanded oversight committee should be revived. The ILO officials should stop harassing the heirs; the governing body of Sindh Social Security Institution has approved increase in pension and it should be immediately implemented; the government and factory owners should join hands to make the Pakistani Accord a great success for national development.

Baldia-Factory-Fire-Anniversary-Sindh Courier-3They demanded to implement labor laws in factories and workplaces.

Those spoke included Nasir Mansoor, Rafique Baloch and Riaz Abbasi of NTUF, Gul Rehman of Workers’ Rights Movement WRM), Zehra Khan and Saira Froze of HBWWF, Husna Khatoon, Muhammad Siddique, Muhammad Jamil and Shaukat of the Association of the affectees of Baldia factory fire, Karamat Ali of Labor Education and Research, Assad Iqbal But and Khazi Qazi of HRCP, Habibuddin Junaidi of Peoples Labor Bureau, Saeed Baloch of Pakistan Firsher Folk Forum, comrade Wahid Baloch, Ayub Qureshi from trade union, Farhat Parveen of Now Communities, Bushra Arain of Lady health workers, Comrade Jannat of PTU Defense Campaign, Khaliq Zadran of Awami Huqooq,  Mirza Maqsoob of Steel Mill, Aqib Hussain, Sara Khan, Faiza Siddiqui, Shahzad Hussain and Anny Younis of Alternate, Abid of Liberty Textile workers union and others. (PR)

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