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KARACHI, Nov 8: Workers’ representatives have demanded that health and safety-related inspections of industries, which have been abandoned for the past many years, be resumed immediately to prevent Baldia-like industrial tragedies in future.

Speaking at a press conference at the press club on Thursday, the representatives of various labour and civil society organisations demanded that the labour department conduct inspections of garment-exporting companies, which had sought social audit certifications from the international inspections companies.

Karamat Ali of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) said the commerce ministry had provided millions of rupees to many garment-exporting factories for seeking SA-8000 certification through international organisations. “This certification is being considered as a substitute for the inspection and audit by the labour department,” he said.

He said that some international organisations working for the rights of workers such as Clean Clothes Campaign were also forcing international buyers to fulfil their responsibility and compensate the workers as some of international buyers did in countries like Bangladesh and Turkey. The Clean Clothes Campaign with labour rights organisations of Pakistan had identified a major buyer that was purchasing garments from Ali Enterprises and that buyer was being persuaded to fulfil its responsibility. While actual responsibility was on the owners of the Ali Enterprises, the international buyers also had some obligations to fulfil, he added.

Nasir Mansoor of the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) said that an Italian company that had issued social audit certificate to Ali Enterprises as well as other certification companies had issued similar SA-8000 certificates to over 100 exporting companies in Pakistan. To begin with, he demanded that the government conduct audit and inspection of all such companies to ascertain health and safety facilities available in the industries. Under the Factories Act 1934, he added, the labour department was required to conduct inspection of all the industries to ensure safety and availability of health facilities in the establishments.

Data collection centres

Noor Mohammad of the Port Workers’ Federation and Mohammad Jafar Khan of the Muttahida Labour Federation said that the labour organisations had decided to collect data of the Baldia fire victims and data collection centres were being set up near the localities where most workers lived. These centres set up in the offices of labour federations and trade union offices would collect information of those workers who went missing or whose bodies had not been identified yet.

They also announced that a demonstration would be organised at the Karachi Press Club on Nov 16 to force the government to initiate labour inspections as well as solve the problems being faced by the heirs of the Baldia fire victims.

The trade union activists said they believed dozens of workers were still missing, because either their bodies had not been recovered yet or feared to have melted in the high degrees of temperature in the fire.

They appealed to all the affected people to approach the data collection centres. The workers, who lost their jobs or were injured but did not receive any compensation, could also contact these centres, they added.

The centres are: PILER, Gulshan-i-Maymar, ST-001, Sector X, sub-sector V, Karachi; NTUF, 726 Mashriq Centre Block 14 Gulshan-i-Iqbal Karachi; NTUF Office: Labour Squire Near Philips Chowrangi, Site, Karachi; All Ittehad Power Looms Worker Union, NTUF Office, Khyber Chowk, Ittehad Town, Baldia, Karachi; Hosiery Garment Textile and General Workers Union, House No 1725/664, Street No 3, Lasi Para, Baldia Town No 4 Near Edhi Centre, Karachi; Women Welfare and Development Association (WADA), House No 1329, Sector L-12, Orangi Town, Karachi; Garments Hosiery Labour Association, A/48, Block 5, Metroville Site, Karachi; Port Workers’ Federation, Office No 206-207, Second Floor, Anam Centre, Block E-31/B, Ghani Chowrangi, Site, Karachi; Muttahida Labour Federation, Block D, Shershah, near Shaheen Restaurant, Karachi.