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Pakistan RMG fire victims take Germany’s KiK to court

In a move which could have ramifications on the global apparel industry, four people affected by the Ali Enterprises apparel factory fire in Pakistan, which killed 260 people in 2012, have filed a lawsuit at the Regional Court in Dortmund against KiK, the German discount retailer which was the main buyer from the factory at the time of the tragedy, seeking €30,000 compensation. The European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) is one of several organisations backing the action. The ECCHR claims the case against KiK should make it clear that transnational corporations’ responsibilities also extend to the working conditions in their subsidiary and supplier companies abroad.

German government is looking at changing the law to ensure German buying companies observe health and safety standards and ensure foreign workers are properly paid in remote manufacturing locations in the likes of South East Asia. The legal action coincides with it. The proposed changes in the law would mean that in cases where a German company was a buyer from a supplier country, inspection of manufacturing units would have to be carried out by German companies. The ECCHR, medico international and the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) from Pakistan are assisting with the claimant case against KiK, which was filed by Berlin lawyer Remo Klinger while Thomas Seibert, south Asia coordinator at medico international, has reportedly said that KiK tried to silence the survivors with charity hand-outs.

KiK made initial relief payments in the aftermath of the fire at Ali Enterprises. After two years of negotiations, KiK tabled a compensation offer in December 2014 which the The Baldia Factory Fire Affectees Association rejected and, instead, selected four claimants to pursue a claim through the German courts.