Rome/Berlin, 11 September 2018 – More than 250 people died and dozens were injured in a fire at the Ali Enterprises textile factory in Karachi, Pakistan, on 11 September 2012. Only three weeks before, Italian auditor RINA Services S.p.A. certified the factory for abiding to international labour standards. Marking the six year anniversary of the disaster ECCHR together with an international coalition of seven other human rights, labour and consumer organizations file a complaint to the OECD National Contact Point (NCP) at the Ministry for Economic Development in Rome against RINA, the company that could have prevented hundreds of deaths by doing its work properly.
“My son died in the fire as hundreds of workers did because they were unable to flee the Ali Enterprises factory in time. There was no functioning fire detection system, firefighting tools and escape routes were blocked or not available,“ said Saeeda Khatoon, Chairwoman of the Ali Enterprises Factory Fire Affectees Association.
The high death toll of the Ali Enterprises factory fire demonstrates that the certification process ignored major safety issues. “RINA’s clear failure to detect and act upon safety and labour violations in the Ali Enterprises factory once more shows that the social auditing system is inherently flawed and that without transparency and accountability to workers the system is due to fail again and again,“ ECCHR’s Carolijn Terwindt said.
In a digital simulation of the fire, research agency Forensic Architecture, based at Goldsmiths, University of London, recently showed that if the factory‘s leniency on safety standards would have been identified and acted upon, hundreds of lives could have been saved.
Responsible for the audit and the certification was Italian company RINA, which not only failed to visit the factory itself, but whose Pakistani subsidiary RI&CA (Regional Inspection & Certification Agency) allegedly also did not set foot in the factory. This subcontractor’s audit failed to notice a range of infractions on the international standards it was upholding (SA 8000) and Pakistani safety standards regulations that would prove fatal, including an illegally constructed floor, and defunct fire alarm system, as well as the presence of child labour and structural excessive overtime. The auditing report even falsely claimed the presence of multiple, safe and freely available emergency routes and sufficient firefighting materials, whereas in reality doors were locked, routes were blocked and the only available fire extinguisher did not work.
The coalition that filed the OECD complaint in Italy is comprised of:
Ali Enterprises Factory Fire Affectees Association (AEFFAA), Pakistan
National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), Pakistan
Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER), Pakistan
European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), Germany
Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), international (Netherlands, Germany, Italy)
Campagna Abiti Puliti, Movimento Consumatori, Italy
medico international, Germany