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KARACHI: Regretting that the culprits responsible for one of the worst industrial disasters in the country were still at large, activists representing two major non-governmental organisations announced on Monday that heirs of the Baldia factory fire victims would get monthly pension as a long-term compensation from the amount paid by the Germany company for the affected families.

The press conference was jointly organised by the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) and the Pakistan Institute of Labour, Education and Research (Piler).

More than 250 workers lost their lives in the fire that engulfed Ali Enterprise, a garment manufacturing unit, in Baldia on Sept 11, 2012.

“We have been struggling to secure appropriate compensation for the heirs of Baldia fire victims since 2012. This issue is now almost resolved as a pension formula has been agreed upon with consensus and the workers’ families will start receiving monthly compensation this month,” Nasir Mansoor of the NTUF said.

The German company (KIK Textilien), which received most of the produce manufactured at Ali Enterprise, had earlier paid $1m as immediate compensation to the families of the victim.

“The German company initially sent an amount of $1 million for immediate relief under the agreement it signed with Piler, The amount was disbursed with the help of a judicial commission in a transparent manner,” he explained, adding that the company later sent $5.16m as long-term compensation required under the accord.

However, Mr Mansoor said that the International Labor Organisation (ILO) had suggested a procedure of distribution which was not accepted by the affected families. An oversight committee was set up comprising representatives of the victim families, labour department, Sindh Employees Social Security Institution and labour NGOs.

“Affected families had some reservations over the pension formula, which now have been removed. The ILO has recently made this formula more effective and suggested three options for disbursing pension,” he said.

Under the formula adopted with consensus, a widow and parents of a deceased worker would get a monthly pension of Rs7,545 (in case of an unmarried victim) each.

“With one child, a widow would get Rs10,060. With two children, the amount would be Rs13,138. The pension would be distributed through the Sindh Employees Social Security Institution,” he said.

Calling the case a great victory, Karamat Ali of Piler said that this was the first instance in the world where a compensation system had been established under the ILO conventions for families whose loved ones died in a factory fire.

“We will fight for the right to pension for life and that there are no deductions in the pension amount,” he said, underscoring the need for implementing labour laws in the country, carrying out inspection of factories and creating safe working conditions.

The activists appreciated the support from local and international organisations, including Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum and Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, activists, the German government as well as the German company which took responsibility and compensated the victims, though it delayed the compensation process.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2018

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