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Global Workers’ Rights group urges Pakistan to adopt International Accord

Global workers’ rights group has suggested expanding the International Accord in Pakistan’s apparel and textile industry to ensure workplace safety and workers’ rights there based on research findings.

The Research titled Workers’ lives at risk: how brands profit from unsafe factory work in Pakistan, which was conducted by Clean Clothes Campaign and Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods (WISERD) at Cardiff University. Clean Clothes Campaign run the survey of almost 600 workers covering issues from workplace harassment, workplace health and safety, and worker wellbeing.

“The year 2022 marks 10 years since the horrific Ali Enterprises fire that killed over 250 garment workers in Pakistan yet rights for workers in the garment and textile industry have hardly progressed, said the Clean Clothes Campaign.

There is still no safety agreement that holds employers and international brands accountable for implementing basic safety protocols and procedures, leaving workers in almost the same conditions that led to this catastrophic fire – the deadliest ever in the global garment industry, it said.

Our new report highlights the deficiencies in some of the most basic provisions for factory safety in garment production in Pakistan, and shows the imminent need for International Accord expansion to protect workers, said the rights group. As per the survey findings, 85% of workers reported no access to proper exit stairwells in the case of a fire. One in five workers said their workplace lacked fire drills and were unaware of emergency escape routes and exits.

The report’s findings highlight significant deficiencies in some of the most basic facilities and provisions for worker safety and health in the urban centres of garment production in Pakistan. These deficiencies are set against the cumulative harm of poverty wages and harsh supervision of factory life that signals a lack of care for workers’ dignity as well as their material conditions of work.

It also found brands have failed in creating a safe and healthy supply chain and employers have failed in maintaining safe and healthy workplaces. The time is long overdue for engaged collective representation of workers’ interests in safeguarding their own health, safety and wellbeing. The conditions our survey highlights cannot any longer be ignored by those who preside over the global supply chain. Brands must act, said the right group.

We therefore call on the brands identified in this report to support the expansion of the legally-binding International Accord for health and safety in the textile and garment industry to Pakistan, which requires opening the signatory brands supplying factories’ for inspections, remediation and monitoring of safety issues, establish an independent complaint mechanism, provide safety trainings, that will prioritise transparency, worker involvement, representation and participation alongside the enforcement and honouring of statutory instruments and commercial obligations, it added.

It is also essential that Pakistan’s national and provincial governments ensure the safety and health of workers in all factories, whether or not covered by the terms of the International Accord in Pakistan, said CCC.

The involvement of local unions and other local workers’ rights organisation in the design, governance and implementation of such initiatives will be of key importance. Only a programme such as this can be credible in safeguarding the health and welfare of garment workers in Pakistan, it added.

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