Businessmen have cautioned that less-than-required manpower and lax implementation of labour laws result in incidents similar to the Mehran Town tragedy, which resulted in the loss of precious lives and damaged the credibility of business owners.

In a statement on Monday, Employers’ Federation of Pakistan President Ismail Suttar held the authorities responsible for the Mehran Town tragedy because they did not take notice of continuous violation of labour laws and disregard of the occupational health and safety protocols.

He said that government officials overlooked the non-registration of industrial units, approval of industrial units in residential areas and ineptness of labour inspectors.

According to him, all these issues had earlier resulted in factory fires, building collapses and death of workers, hence the primary responsibility lies with the government.

“The Sindh Labour Department has only 125 labour inspectors for the entire province and a vast majority of them are ignorant of the health and safety requirements or even labour laws,” he regretted.

Suttar was of the view that government functionaries did not learn any lesson from the Baldia garment factory inferno nor were they concerned about human safety and health.

He added that his organisation time and again offered its services to train labour inspectors under the corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme but the government failed to respond to the proposals.

It is high time for the workers and employers to join hands to advocate strict compliance with the law, identify and lobby for immediate removal of all industrial units from residential areas, mandatory insurance for all workers and third-party audit of all factories, he said.

Suttar also called for registering all industrial units with the Labour Department, Sindh Employees Social Security Institution and Employees’ Old-Age Benefits Institution, and ensuring payment of minimum wage to all employees.

He extended support of his organisation for ensuring full compliance with the ILO labour standards and achieving common objectives.

On the other hand, Union of Small and Medium Enterprises (Unisame) President Zulfikar Thaver expressed sympathies with families of the affectees of Mehran Town blaze.

He urged all the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to take preventive measures to avoid such dangerous and injurious situations, which caused damage to the life, property and credibility of businessmen.

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“It is very unfortunate that government officials compromised on safety, protection and security, and showed leniency towards poor standards of ventilation, exit gates, fire extinguishers and fire-fighting equipment,” he said.

“The government should ensure the safety of workers as they are valuable and precious.”

Published in The Express Tribune, August 31st, 2021.

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