Factory Which Killed 300 Workers Had Safety Audit Weeks Before
The textile factory in Karachi, Pakistan in which close to 300 workers burned to death on Sept. 12 had only weeks before received the coveted Social Accountability International’s SA8000 certificate, indicating that it was in compliance with the standards on working conditions and safety standards, according to a report from the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF).
The Italian company which performed the audit had previously issued 540 certifications, including 100 in Pakistan. According to the IUF, bosses will always try to coach workers on how to respond to audits. But the Karachi factory had reportedly registered 250 workers with the public authorities, while employing up to a thousand.
Safety Violations Somehow Escaped Auditors
Locked doors can be opened on inspection day, but the factory reportedly contained no emergency exits. No factory in Karachi has reportedly been visited by an electrical inspector for at least the past 9 years. All this somehow escaped the attention of auditors who spent 4 days at the plant operating to what are said to be the highest international standards, according to the IUF.
Like the notorious Foxconn factories in China, where auditors failed to detect toxic workplaces, child labor and massive amounts of overtime, the Karachi factory had been audited previously. The balance sheet of these audits has been hundreds of lives, according to the IUF.
Fire Evokes References to Triangle Factory That Killed 146 Workers
The Karachi fire inevitably evokes references to the notorious fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York, which in 1911 killed 146 garment workers.
The doors at the Triangle factory, like the doors at Ali enterprises in Karachi, were locked. The bosses reportedly said it was on account of theft. The workers reportedly knew that it was to keep out union organizers.
Public outrage at the Triangle fire led to the enactment of significant safety legislation. The Karachi horror shows – again – that private ‘accountability’ schemes cannot be permitted to replace public accountability, regulation and strong unions at the workplace, the IUF added.
Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: email@example.com.
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