KARACHI: Families of the Baldia Town factory fire victims have urged the authorities to consider paying off the pension via the Sindh High Court as was done earlier.

The demand was made during a general body meeting of the families at the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) House on Wednesday.

Addressing the families present, chairperson of Ali Enterprises Factory Fire Affectees Association Saeeda Bibi said that they appealed to the “federal and provincial authorities and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to pay the pension in lump sum”.

The families were referring to an agreement between German retailer KiK and labour unions in Geneva in September 2016. According to the agreement, KiK agreed to pay $5 million in instalments as life-long compensation or pension to families of the Baldia factory fire victims.

However, soon after the agreement, the heirs of the victims protested against the arrangement and demanded to be paid in full. Explaining their collective decision, Saeeda said that “the families don’t want to rely on the Sindh Employees Social Security Institution (Sessi) as they have a history of not keeping their word. The families have already experienced their mismanagement.”

She also added that “around 70 per cent of the victims of the Baldia factory fire were young and single labourers who were running their homes.”

Representatives of the ILO met the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) in May. Speaking to Dawn about the details of the meeting, in which the representatives are said to have explained the pension distribution process to the NTUF, its deputy general secretary Nasir Mansoor said, “A widow will receive Rs9,000. In case she remarries, the monthly pension would end. Parents, who lost their children in the fire, would receive Rs2,800 per month. The distribution is unequal and is likely to create a rift within families.”

Similar to a town hall meeting, the families of the victims were also present at the PMA auditorium. From time to time, they presented their suggestions and all of them unanimously disagreed with the compensation process.

In an earlier meeting, Advocate Faisal Siddiqi had also discussed the terms of the compensation process with the families. The discussion led to a bigger discussion about the “incompetence of social security institutions” and the “long-drawn and often embarrassing process” of receiving pension.

It was, however, decided that the Sindh High Court should be requested to look into the matter as was done before. The SHC had earlier disbursed the compensation amount among the families through a judicial commission.

Forming a committee to look over the disbursement of the compensation process was also suggested by a few participants. At the same time, the families also demanded that the stakeholders must “not be part of the committee formed by the Sindh Government until a mutually viable mechanism is agreed upon.”

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2017

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