Fire kills 286 – despite social responsibility certificate

published 03-10-2013 14:16, last modified 10-10-2013 14:10
In September 2012 Ali Enterprises factory in Karachi was devastated by a fire, resulting in the death of 286 trapped workers. The factory produced jeans and other apparel for German discounter KiK. Just a month before the fire, the factory had been certified as meeting international labour standards by Social Accountability International.
'The terrible events at Ali Enterprise highlight the weaknesses of the SAI certification system, which has badly let down those it is paid to protect. If SAI is to maintain any credibility it must drop the veil of secrecy it is currently hiding behind, and start cooperating with those groups working for justice for the victims of the fire.'

Deborah Lucchetti of Clean Clothes Campaign Italy.

Almost 300 workers were killed and 65 were seriously injured when a fire ripped through the Ali Enterprises garment factory in Pakistan. The high death toll of the fire resulted from inadequate fire exits, blocked staircases and barred windows, preventing many workers from escaping the fire and smoke. The Ali Enterprises factory was granted certification for decent working conditions shortly before the fire.

Following a high-profile campaign in Germany, German retailer KIK finally confirmed that it was buying garments from the factory, and paid an initial $1 million in compensation. None of the other buyers has been positively identified. Further compensation to meet the long-term needs of workers is required from both the brands and the auditing firms responsible for the certification.

The Clean Clothes Campaign and the labour organisations it is working with have urged all companies buying from Ali Enterprises to come forward and take responsibility for what happened to the workers. They should ensure that the victims of the fire are fully compensated, that workers are paid their wages during the time that the factory is closed, and that credible measures are taken to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.

Workers protest the appallling safety conditions
The SA8000 standard, developed and promoted by Social Accountability International (SAI), is supposed to guarantee that a certified facility meets international standards with regard to human and labour rights, including a prohibition of child labour and protection of health and safety in the workplace. However, the audits for SA8000 failed to show that Ali Enterprise was operating illegally, that there was a lack of fire exits and that all windows were barred. A report into the fire by SAI noted that their auditors failed to notice that documents had been falsified and that they were denied access to parts of the factory.

Download the Fatal Fashion report from SOMO and CCC on factory fires here

See also:

KIK signs compensation agreement for victims of Ali Enterprise tragedy

Urge KIK to identify buyers and pay compensation to Pakistan fire victims

Factory certification body fails to assist victims of Karachi factory fire

What do companies and Multi Stakeholder Initiaves think of the CCC? *

“CCC has been one of the defining influences on code of conduct over the last 10 years. Codes of conduct have moved from being a fringe idea to a central plank of single CSR policy in the industry. A large part of that is because CCC internationally have been a champion for the role of brands taking action... and have placed and kept the issue in the public domain.”

“CCC have had impact by raising our awareness, triggering the development of our code of conduct and our subsequent mechanisms on monitoring, disclosure practises, decision to join MSI, training and follow-up.”

“If there is a critical situation in a factory that we have not become aware of ourselves, we do of course react immediately, if this is brought to our attention by CCC.”

“All activities raise awareness but do not change policies, urgent appeals have most impact to improve or change the way of working with a supplier or improve a situation if needed.”

* Quotes from internal report that assesses how Clean Clothes Campaign's labour rights corporate accountability work, including the Urgent Appeal system, has impacted corporate behavior between 1994 and 2010.

Pins Brown, 2010. Impact Assessment of Corporate Accountability Activities of Clean Clothes Campaign. Unpublished report on file.