• KiK was the only known buyer at the Ali Enterprises factory, in Baldia, Karachi, where more than 255 workers lost their lives in 2012.
  • The German fashion retailer, which had previously paid compensation, has now paid life-long pensions to survivors and families of those killed. 
Families and survivors of the Ali Enterprises fire have been campaigning for compensation and a pension

Families and survivors of the Ali Enterprises fire have been campaigning for compensation and a pension

Survivors and families of workers killed in the Ali Enterprises garment factory fire in 2012 have now received pensions out of a fund financed by the factory's only known buyer, German retailer KiK.

The families will receive life-long pensions matching international standards as set by the International Labour Organization (ILO), according to a statement by Clean Clothes Campaign. The alliance says the process was lengthy – with families having to wait for more than six years – but that the outcome is "ground-breaking".

KiK was the only known buyer at the Ali Enterprises factory, in Baldia, Karachi, where more than 255 workers lost their lives and 57 were left injured. Workers burnt to death trapped behind barred windows and locked doors, while others sustained permanent disabilities jumping from the upper floors, in what is Pakistan's worst industrial accident.

The German fashion retailer, which had previously paid US$1m in emergency compensation in December 2012, completed its commitment in February to pay compensation to the survivors and families of workers killed.

"The long-term compensation will grant relief to victims' families, who were going through unbearable hardship," said Saeeda Khatoon, chairperson of the Ali Enterprises Factory Fire Affectees Association, who lost a son in the fire. "I am grateful that the Pakistani labour department, SESSI and the Sindh government took interest in our cases and prioritised making compensation possible."

Contrary to earlier large-scale compensations in the garment industry, the Ali Enterprises arrangement was set up in order to pay life-long pensions in full alignment with ILO Convention 121 on employment injury benefits.

However, this also meant a long process of preparation, calculation, the setting up of a fully representative oversight committee, the distribution process and finding of a solution that respected national circumstances and met international standards were pioneer work, which involved many domestic and international partners, according to CCC.

The Sindh Employees Social Security Institution (SESSI) started the disbursements of the pensions in an official ceremony on Saturday (19 May).

Nasir Mansoor, deputy general secretary National Trade Union Federation Pakistan (NTUF), said the pension payments represented "an historic moment".

"This will set a precedent to be followed in the future. International support from the ILO, IndustriAll Global Union and Clean Clothes Campaign were instrumental to make this agreement on long-term compensation possible. Now, it is high time to start recognising the fundamental right to a safe and healthy workplace in Pakistan, to prevent any future factory incidents."

Karamat Ali, executive director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, welcomed the news but warned the industry must now look to the future.

"The Ali Enterprises fire painfully shows the urgency of the establishment of credible and accountable inspections that conform with international standards and are embedded in a system that is suitable to the national situation."