Victims’ families now getting compensation

Baldia factory fire

KARACHI - Families of 209 victims of Baldia factory fire have started receiving compensation from German textile buyer KIK.

A ceremony in this regard was presided over by Sindh Labour Minister Nasir Hussain Shah at the Karachi Auditorium of the Arts Council of Pakistan on Saturday. A large number of victims’ families and labour leaders attended the ceremony.

Country Director of International Labour Organisation (ILO) Ingrid Christensen, who played a role in finalization of documents for distribution of long-awaited compensation to victims’ families, was also present at the ceremony.

Over 250 workers had lost their lives in a deadly factory fire at a garments factory located in SITE, Baldia industrial area on September 11, 2012.

The main buyer, German company KIK Textilien, had provided $1 million as immediate relief after signing an MoU with PILER. The amount was distributed through a commission appointed by the Sindh High Court and headed by Justice (Retd) Rahmat Hussain Jaffery. As an obligation under MoU, the KIK later provided $5.15 million as long term compensation to victims’ families.

ILO received the money and after calculation of pension rates now it is being distributed through the Sindh Employees Social Security Institution (SESSI).

The ILO country head said more than two years have passed since all stakeholders started work together for long term compensation to victims’ families. “We are happy that funds have been transferred and are being distributed through SESSI,” she said.

She appreciated the role of Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) and other stakeholders. She also thanked the Oversight Committees for their support. She also thanked victims’ families for their passion and tolerance in such a difficult situation. She said that ILO, SESSI or the Sindh Labour Department did not charge any fee in the process and they will not charge any in future as well.

Sindh Labour Minister Nasir Shah also congratulated the stakeholders and victims’ families. He said the provincial government will construct a monument in memory of those killed in the factory fire. He said the provincial government has already fixed 11th September as Occupational Health and Safety Day every year.

PILER Executive Director Karamat Ali said it was a collective struggle of many organizations and victims’ families who fought their case through international advocacy. He underlined the need for continuation of the struggle for workers’ rights. He said that EOBI pension to victims families should continue. In this regard, he said, talks will be held with the concerned department soon. He said ILO provided technical support in provision of long term compensation to victims of Baldia factory fire, especially in determination of the pension rate. He said according to ILO living wages in 2012 were at Rs25,500 and after addition of inflation these wages should be around Rs31,000. He demanded that minimum wages for unskilled workers should be fixed at Rs30,000 per month.

Senior lawyer Faisal Siddiue, who represented PILER in the Sindh High Court, said it was important to recognize that “what we have achieved is because of joint struggle, particularly of victims’ families’.” He appreciated the role of the Sindh government and said in this case the provincial government had played very positive role. Now SESSI has to play an important role.

He said without ILO’s intervention this landmark agreement was not possible. The German government had also played a key role in facilitating and focusing on compensation to the victims. He also appreciated the role of German company KIK, who not only accepted its responsibility but also provided compensation.

He, however, regretted that factory owners didn’t do anything for the victims’ families. “They were not arrested or fined. The state and business community, including chamber of commerce facilitated them to run away from the country. Siddiqi suggested building a centre of excellence or museum at the site of Ali Enterprises so the victim families can go there to pay homage to their loved ones. He also suggested formation of a committee that can ensure enforcement of health and safety laws. Saeeda Khatoon, chairperson of Ali Enterprises Factory Fire Affectees Association, thanked everyone who contributed to their struggle. She said “we can’t bring back our martyrs but we can take care of their families”.

Secretary of Labour Rasheed Solangi, senior lawyer Rasheed A Rizvi, Majyd Aziz (president of the Employers Federation of Pakistan), Consul General of Germany, senior labour leader Habibuddin Junedi, Nasir Mansoor of NTUF and Fasihul Karim Siddiqu also spoke on the occasion.



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