The fire at Karachi garment factory Ali Enterprises on 11th September is believed to have killed at least 289
Another fire the same day at an illegal shoe factory in Lahore killed 25.
At Ali Enterprises, Karachi, reports suggest:
some doors were locked so workers could not escape others blocked by piles of finished clothing
no emergency exits
iron bars on upstairs windows had to be smashed so workers could jump out
fire started by faulty wiring
flammable chemicals not stored safely
factory not registered
workers not given contracts
the owner of the factory has gone into hiding
Samira Shackle in the Guardian Comment is free, September 14th, says this about labour and health and safety laws in Pakistan:
“But what exactly is the legal protection for workers in Pakistan? The only legislation on health and safety that exists is the Hazardous Occupation Rule 1963, under the 1934 Factories Act. The act also has a whole section, added in 1997, that is concerned with fire safety. Pakistan is a signatory to the International Labour Organisation’s labour inspection convention, which commits the government to ensuring that workers are fully informed about their legal rights, and to enabling inspectors to report on problems that aren’t covered by existing regulations.
So laws defending workers’ rights do exist. But they are rendered redundant by a total failure of implementation. In fact, an executive order issued under the Punjab Industrial Policy 2003 actually abolished labour inspections, with the aim of “developing an industry and business-friendly environment” to attract fresh investment. The ban originated in Punjab (the province that is home to Lahore), and Sindh (where Karachi is situated), appears to have followed suit. Unsurpisingly, it was implemented under pressure from wealthy industrialists.”
She also reports that the President of Pakistan has announced an investigation and murder charges are being filed against the factory owners for their: “utter negligence”.
Labourstart with international union IndusriALL Union has an online petition Pakistan: make textile factories safe. As well as supporting Pakistan trade unions in calling for murder charges against the factory owners, it asks the government to pay compensation of five million rupees (53,000 USD) to the families of the workers who were killed, and two million rupees (21,000 USD) to injured workers and that the workers continue to receive their salary.
IndustriALL Union was formed 19th June 2012 and includes the International Textile Garment and Leatherworkers Federation (ITGLWF).