Factory certification body fails to assist victims of Karachi factory fire
- Victims of tragic factory fire in Pakistan are denied crucial information to hold brand buyers accountable
- SAI and SAAS refuse to cooperate in identifying international buyers that were at the factory or release the findings of accredited auditors
- SA8000 certification gave clean bill of health to Ali Enterprises factory that went up in flames and cost the lives of nearly 300 garment workers
Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), Maquila Solidarity Network (MSN), International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) and the National Trade Union Federation Pakistan (NTUF) are calling upon New York-based Social Accountability International (SAI) and its related body Social Accountability Accreditation Services (SAAS) to release information about the Ali Enterprises garment factory in Pakistan, where 300 workers were killed in a factory fire last month. Ali Enterprises had received an SA8000 certification for decent working conditions from the SAAS-accredited Italian auditor Registro Italiano Navale Group (RINA) only one month prior to the tragedy.
The SA8000 standard, developed and promoted by SAI, applies to all industrial sectors and is supposed to guarantee that production takes place under decent working conditions. The standard includes respect for human and labour rights, a prohibition of child labour, and protection of health and safety in the workplace.
On 11th of September 2012 nearly 300 workers were killed when fire ripped through the factory which was producing jeans for export. The factory was not legally registered with the Pakistan government and had failed to provide the majority of workers with employment contracts. The high death toll resulted from inadequate fire exits, blocked staircases and barred windows, preventing many workers from escaping the blaze.
Says Nasir Mansoor from the National Trade Union Federation in Pakistan: 'It is unbelievable that major apparel companies and accreditation bodies are hiding their involvement in the Ali Enterprises factory or denying their responsibility for the fire. The families of the deceased and injured workers deserve full transparency about the role of auditing organisations that gave a clean bill of health to the factory's safety, and the brands that were able to make profits at the expense of workers' safety.'
In an answer to a letter from the coalition of international labour rights groups, SAI and SAAS denied any responsibility for the fire, citing confidentiality agreements as the reason neither they nor the Italian auditing company, RINA, can share any information they possess about the factory. They claim that RINA and SAAS are both conducting investigations, but refuse to share their information with the worker representatives in Pakistan.
'The terrible events of the 11th September highlight the weaknesses of the SAI certification system, which has badly let down those it is paid to protect,' said Deborah Lucchetti of the Italian Clean Clothes Campaign. '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 Ali Enterprises fire.'
The Clean Clothes Campaign, Worker Rights Consortium, Maquila Solidarity Network and International Labor Rights Forum have urged all companies sourcing from Ali Enterprises to come forward and ensure that victims of the fire are fully compensated, workers are paid their wages during this time of closure of the factory, and credible measures are taken to prevent such a tragedy from happening again. However, the sole buyer that has admitted to sourcing from the factory, KiK, did so only after proof of its relationship with the factory was made public. None of the other buyers has been positively identified.
From the 9th to the 11th of October SAI is holding a meeting of its Advisory Board in Bologna, Italy. Campaigners are demanding that the Board commit to cooperating with those groups working to ensure justice for these workers, take steps to shed light on the events that led to this terrible tragedy and help to ensure that the victims get the assistance they need and deserve. This includes the publication of audit reports and disclosure of information on buyers sourcing from the factory.