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12 Sep 2022

The Express Tribune

Pakistan: Families, campaigners & activists mark 10 year anniversary of Ali Enterprises factory fire, calling on government to enforce health & safety laws

"Baldia factory fire victims remembered", 12 September 2022

On September 11, 2012, more than 260 workers were burnt alive in the multi-storey building of the Ali Enterprises garment factory in Baldia Town in what was the worst industrial disaster in the country’s history.

On the 10th anniversary of the tragedy, a gathering was jointly organised by the National Trade Union Federation, Baldia Town Tragedy Association and Home-Based Women Workers Federation of Pakistan outside the same factory.

Families and relatives of the victims, political and social activists, and human rights campaigners attended the gathering. A candle-light vigil was held in memory of those killed in the tragedy. 

The families of the victims...demanded a safe environment for all workers at their workplaces and the implementation of labour laws in letter and spirit.

...General Secretary of National Trade Union Federation of Pakistan, Nasir Mansoor said that...millions of workers associated with the textile and garment industry are deprived of basic labour rights like unionization, minimum wage, social security, and pension. “Both international fashion brands and local manufacturers are equally culpable for this crime,” he said.

Saeeda Khatun, Chairperson of Sanhiha Baldia Victims Association, said that our boys and girls are falling victim to the industrialists’ lust for profit. Ten years on, the families of victims of the Baldia factory fire are still waiting for justice. “The owners of the factory, who were actually responsible for the tragedy, were given a clean chit by the government, while the German brand for which the factory produced products, did not even express condolence or regret, let alone apologising to the victims’ families,” Khatun said.

The General Secretary of Home-Based Women Workers Federation of Pakistan, in her address to the gathering, said that the Labour Department has been paralysed as it has not been able to frame rules, let alone implement the health and safety laws.

“The officials of the Labour Department have become representatives of employers rather than representatives of workers, she said. “Women workers are harassed at their workplaces where they are also at risk of sexual violence,” she added...

The relatives of Baldia tragedy victims demanded of the government to enforce health and safety laws at all workplaces and restore EOBI pension of the victims’ parents. They also demanded that women workers should be provided with a safe environment at their workplaces and anti-harassment committees should be formed at the basic level.