KARACHI: A team of labour rights organisations is coming from European countries to Pakistan on Aug 27 to discuss issues concerning the Baldia factory fire tragedy with their Pakistani counterparts and filing of cases against the certificate issuing authority, RINA, it emerged on Tuesday.

Speaking at a press conference held at the Karachi Press Club, deputy general secretary of the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) Nasir Mansoor said two years had passed but the authorities concerned seemed “not interested in providing a better legal system to deal with such issues”.

Sitting beside the Baldia fire victims’ families, Mansoor said the promises made by the authorities to the families had not been fulfilled. “We have three persisting issues with the authorities. One, to pay compensation to the remaining 120 workers. Also, the Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI) issue its cards to 92 employees, which is still pending,” he said.

He added that the pension cards, initially issued to the families under the EOBI, would last for five years only. And the demands to the contrary were “being ignored by the officials”.

In September the trade unions will commemorate the second anniversary of the Baldia factory fire in which 259 workers were killed. Despite many statements in the press, the trade unionists and labour organisations speak of the government’s “lack of empathy”.

“Trade unions remain one of the most vulnerable sectors in Pakistan. In our country alone, there are 60 million labour workforce of whom a mere 2.6 per cent have got recognition from trade unions,” said Mansoor.

He said they would continue to come out or speak through the media until the certificate issuing authorities “are punished for exploiting millions of workers”. Among those he held responsible for the Baldia fire incident, he said the European trade market that got its workforce from Pakistan and other Asian countries was also playing unfair. “There is better implementation of labour laws in the developed countries and so they should be more careful before dealing with a garment factory anywhere else. The social audit certificate issuing authority, RINA, gave certificates to 90 other factories, where are the names of those factories? And why it doesn’t bother anyone?”

The families sitting with Mansoor remained quiet till the end of the press conference. Before winding up his speech, Mansoor said: “What we have figured out in the past two years is that a worker or labourer is on no one’s agenda. He/she is not a priority at all.”

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2014