KARACHI: The International Labour Organisation’s country director Ingrid Christensen stressed the need on Saturday to revise and update labour laws to improve industrial safety and prevent a recurrence of incidents like Baldia factory tragedy in which over 250 workers were burnt to death.

Speaking at a function organised in connection with the distribution of compensation among the heirs of victims of the tragedy, she said that the ILO would provide all possible technical assistance to the government in improving its labour-related laws and making these in conformity with the ILO conventions.

The function was organised jointly by the ILO, the Sindh government, the National Trade Union Federation, the Pakistan Institute of Labour Research and Education and Ali Enterprise Factory Fire Affectees Association (AEFFAA) at the Arts Council of Pakistan.

Sindh Labour Minister Nasir Shah said that the government would fulfil all its promises made to the heirs of the victims in connection with the compensation.

He said to pay homage to the Baldia factory victims the government had already announced to observe September 11 as Occupational Health and Safety Day. He said that a monument would also be constructed for victims.

AEFFAA representative Saeeda Khatoon lauded the heirs and families of the victims for their struggle and said that without their joint efforts getting compensation could have been next to impossible. She said that the money could not bring back the dead, but might help the families whose breadwinners had died.

She regretted that the “real” culprits of the tragedy had not yet been caught.

Nasir Mansoor of the NTUF said that the German garments importer had paid $5.15 million to the Sindh government and this amount had been invested. The income on the investment would be paid at approximately Rs7,500 per month to the heirs of each victim for life in their bank accounts through the Sindh Employees Social Security Institution.

He said that around 20 months had passed since the payment had been received so the heirs of around 209 victims belonging to Sindh would get an accumulated amount of around Rs150,000 in their bank accounts, most probably by Monday.

The rest of around 50 victims’ families residing in the upcountry areas would get paid in the next few weeks. He said that an oversight committee, comprising all stakeholders, had been set up that would ensure regular and transparent distribution of compensation.

He said that while industrialists and exporters continued to get benefits from the European importers under the GSP Plus status, they did not provide basic health and safety facilities to their workers.

Karamat Ali of Piler said that after getting this compensation now the victims’ families would launch a joint struggle to get the pension restored for them from the Employees Old-age Benefits Institutions (EOBI).

He said that earlier the main German garments importing company KiK Textillien had provided $1 million that was distributed among the heirs and later it provided over $5.15m and profit from it would be distributed as long-term compensation/pension among the heirs.

He said that the salary of the victims had been fixed at around Rs25,000 and pension had been calculated at around Rs7,500 per month.

Advocate Faisal Siddiqui, who had fought the case for the compensation payment to the victims’ heirs, suggested that a committee, comprising representation from all stakeholders, be set up to ensure enforcement of health and safety laws.

A representative of the German consulate general Ingolf Vogel, senior lawyer Rashid A. Razvi, labour secretary Rasheed Solangi, trade union leader Habibuddin Junaidi, Majyd Aziz of Employers Federation of Pakistan, and others also spoke to the audience comprising heirs/families of the Baldia factory victims.

Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2018

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