As families of the Baldia factory fire victims mark three long years since their loved ones never returned from work, a talk held by the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) at the Karachi Press Club on Wednesday served to reinforce the regrettable belief that not much has changed in Pakistan’s industrial circles, at least with respect to labour conditions and work safety management.
“Till today, almost 90 percent of factories operating in Pakistan remain unregistered,” said NTUF Deputy General Secretary Nasir Mansoor while addressing a sombre audience that included family members of several of the 260 victims.
“Moreover, despite the Supreme Court’s stance, the infamous contract labour system remains fully functional.Workers are still not being given appointment letters at the time of recruitment; social security and old-age benefits are also provided selectively.”
“Many famous international brands and companies that are earning millions by utilising Pakistan’s cheap labor remain hesitant to implement accepted labour standards in their factories and workplaces, he added.
Mansoor also raised the plight of the Baldia victims’ heirs and maintained that many of them were yet to receive the compensatory amounts, plots of jobs promised by top government officials and businessmen.
“There was immense pressure created by trade unions and labour and human rights organisations initially, so that German brand had to dole out some initial compensation,” he said.
“Later, however, they backtracked and refused to pay any more damages which has left the victims’ families embroiled in tedious court cases,” lamented Mansoor.