Today, marks the second anniversary of the fatal fire at Ali Enterprises garment factory in Karachi, Pakistan, which killed at least 254 garment workers and injured 55. Two years on, the victims families and the survivors are still waiting for the compensation they are entitled to.
Just weeks before the fire, the factory was audited on behalf of Italian social audit firm RINA for SAI (Social Accountability International) SA8000 certification – and passed – even though it had no emergency exits, barred windows, was not registered and had an entire illegal mezzanine floor built on.
The survivors and victims families fate is shared with the families of more than 1,300 garment workers who have been killed in unsafe workplaces in Asia since the Ali Enterprises fire, and the thousands more who survived fires and building collapses but whose lives have been changed forever.
German retailer KiK had clothes produced in each of the three factories to witness the greatest loss of life – Ali Enterprises, Tazreen Fashions and Rana Plaza – and yet to date has failed to provide full and fair compensation for all the victims.
In December 2012 KIK, the only known buyer at Ali Enterprises factory, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) committing an initial US$1 million for immediate relief and agreeing to negotiations surrounding the amount required to pay compensation. However the negotiation is being delayed by KiK, who most recently pulled out at the last minute of planned negotiations in July and compensation remains unpaid.
KIK has committed US$1 million to the Rana Plaza Donor Trust Fund, just a fifth of what Clean Clothes Campaign estimates they owe, based on their annual turnover. And for the victims of Tazreen Fashions they have failed to contribute a cent.
“KIK were sourcing from the factories involved in three of history’s deadliest tragedies – Tazreen, Ali Enterprises and then or course Rana Plaza, – these were not accidents, these were the result of continuous price pressures by discount retailers like KIK causing factory owners to cut corners and to keep pay at poverty levels, forcing workers to risk their lives to keep their families from destitution. Over 1,600 people died in these three tragedies and two years later the injured workers and surviving families are barely able to make ends meet. KIK must pay full and fair compensation to all those who have paid the highest price for KIK’s low cost products, their refusal to accept their responsibility for full compensation just prolongs the suffering of the very people their profits are built on.” Kate Nolan, Clean Clothes Campaign Ireland
The tragedies in the garment industry over the last two years have highlighted the urgent need for a more long term and sustainable compensation system for workplace accidents as per ILO standards and in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights right to remedy framework. The framework makes clear that “when … there is a failure to protect and respect human rights in the workplace then governments and companies must ensure effective remedies, including adequate compensatory payments.”
“It is not charity that the survivors want, it is their right to full and fair compensation,” says Mr. Karamat Ali, Executive Director of PILER.
As workers and campaigners around the world hold candlelight vigils to commemorate those who died in the fire, Clean Clothes Campaign renews it’s call to KiK to resume negotiations based on the legally binding agreement with PILER, and pay up, ensuring all the victims families and survivors receive the compensation they are owed before another year passes.