Today Clean Clothes Campaign commemorates the five year anniversary of the deadly fire that ripped through the Ali Enterprises factory in Pakistan, killing over 250 garment workers. As we remember this tragedy, our thoughts are with the families that lost loved ones and of those that lived through these horrific events. Taking stock five years on, Clean Clothes Campaign fears that, in absence of credible and transparent safety inspections, garment factories in Pakistan remain unsafe workplaces. This means that thousands of workers continue to face daily risks of being injured or killed at work.
In Bangladesh, the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in 2013 was followed by the creation of a legally binding, credible and transparent system of safety inspections based on international building safety standards. The worst factory fire in Pakistani industrial history should have similarly inspired the adoption of transparent and credible inspecition mechanisms in Pakistan. Yet, over the past five years there has been no discernable progress towards adopting such mechanisms and addressing the problems that led to the Ali Enterprises factory fire.
"The Bangladesh Accord for Fire and Building Safety proves that it is possible to swiftly move from the classic 'audit and ignore' to a successful system which aptly inspects and remediates. Until Pakistan implements its own system of credible, transparent and accountable safety inspections that include financial commitments from brands for inspection and remediation, workers lives remain at risk," states Ben Vanpeperstraete of Clean Clothes Campaign.
Karamat Ali of Pakistani Institute of Labour Education & Research (PILER) adds: "The Pakistani garment sector is in dire need of accountable inspections that conform with international standards and are embedded in a system that is suitable to the national situation, to prevent its factories from being death traps to the workers employed in it."
The work towards full justice for the families affected by the Ali Enterprises factory disaster remains in progress. Last year, on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the fire, global stakeholders came to an agreement to organize compensation for loss of income and medical costs for the affected families. As part of this agreement KiK has paid over five million dollars, to be distributed through an ILO-organized process. The payments to the affected families have not yet commenced, but Clean Clothes Campaign sincerely hopes that affected families can start receiving compensation as soon as possible. Saeeda Khatoon, who lost her son in the fire, speaks on behalf of the Ali Enterprise Factory Fire Affectees Association, stating: "We lost our family members in this deadly fire five years ago, now it is time for us to receive the agreed upon compensation. Brands should respect the rights of workers, including the right to a safe workplace."