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Safe factory claims burn in Karachi

November 2012

German clothing retailer KIK has been accused by campaigners and trade unions of failing to ensure the safety of a supplier factory in Karachi where a fire killed 289 workers in September.

Factory owner Ali Enterprises has been charged in its absence with murder. There have been no arrests but media reports say the company refutes claims of negligence. The National Trade Union Federation wants the authorities to also consider criminal negligence charges against KIK and any other buyers from Ali Enterprises.

The factory was not registered with the Pakistan government and few of the staff had contracts. The high death toll has been blamed on inadequate fire exits, blocked staircases and barred windows.

Lars Stubbe, of the German Clean Clothes Campaign, complained: “That KIK has failed to respond with any remorse or urgency highlights the total lack of respect and care they have for the workers employed in their supply chain.”

KIK, which runs more than 3,200 stores with turnover of €1.9m ($2.5m, £1.5m) in 2010, was the only buyer to admit to sourcing from Ali Enterprises, but only after the connection was made public.

Just weeks before the fire, New York-based Social Accountability International (SAI) supported the award of an SA8000 certificate to the factory. The certificate, which refers to the protection of workers’ basic human rights, was granted by Italian auditor Registro Italiano Navale Group (Rina), which is accredited by Social Accountability Accreditation Services (SAAS), a body related to SAI. All three are remaining silent on grounds of confidentiality, except to claim there are discrepancies in the accounts of the blaze, the number of victims and the state of the exits.

Deborah Lucchetti, of the Italian Clean Clothes Campaign, said: “The terrible events 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 hiding behind and start co-operating with those groups working for justice for the victims.”

On the same day, 25 employees died in a fire at a Lahore shoe factory allegedly caused by sparks from a faulty generator.




KIK | Asia | supply chain

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