Fire kills 286 – despite social responsibility certificate
'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.
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.
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