KARACHI: Months after allegations filed against them in a German court, the German brand KIK has finally filed a detailed response in court refusing to pay long-term compensation to the Baldia factory fire victims, it was stated during a press conference on Wednesday.
Explaining details of the case at the Karachi Press Club, general secretary of the National Trade Union Federation Nasir Mansoor said the brand, which already paid one part of the compensation, adding up to one million dollars, “exonerated itself from sharing further responsibility in providing the second phase of compensation for the families of the victims”.
Filed in the regional court of Dortmund in March — making it a first for a case to be filed by outsiders against a German brand in their own country — the basic demand put forth by four heirs of the victims was to provide life-long compensation to people either dead or injured in the Baldia factory fire. Eleven people submitted their documents in the German court and out of them four heirs were the first ones to file their cases. Others, decided to appear as witnesses if required, said Nasir.
The heirs of the victims were helped in filing the case by a group of German lawyers who visited Karachi in August last year and then again in January 2015.
“In their response, the brand owners have argued they are not responsible for providing lifelong compensation for the victims.
“It goes against our agreement with them last year, in which the company categorically admitted to provide financial support,” added Nasir.
The NTUF alleged that the response came after the brand agreed to provide compensation to the families in three phases. Although the brand already dispensed one million dollars as part of negotiation with the NTUF and the heirs, there were other ‘defaulters’, who refused to fulfill their promises, he added.
Foremost among that was the promise made by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who while visiting the families of the victims, had agreed to provide Rs200,000 to the heirs of the Baldia factory fire victims.
Apart from that, the real estate tycoon, Malik Riaz, also had promised Rs400,000 each to the families, whereas Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah didn’t get back to the families after announcing compensation soon after the incident.
A total of 259 workers were killed in the Baldia factory fire on Sept 11, 2012.
As the anniversary comes closer, of what is considered as one of the worst industrial fires in the history of Pakistan, the families of the victims rally around labour rights activists to raise voice for their compensation, if justice, according to them, seems a far-fetched idea.
Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2015