10 Years of the Baldia Town Tragedy: Screening of "Discount Workers: A Fight for Justice in Global Supply Chains"

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On Wednesday, 21 September 2022, SAHSOL hosted film screening of “Discount Workers: A Fight for Justice in Global Supply Chains” to mark 10 years since the Baldia Town factory fire. This was arguably Pakistan’s worst industrial disaster, where 266 workers died and over 30 were seriously injured when fire broke out in the factory unit that was manufacturing clothes for the German retailer, KiK. The film follows Saeeda Khatoon, a widow who lost her 14-year-old son in the fire as she takes up the cause of seeking justice in local courts and in Germany, against KiK. The litigation in Germany ultimately failed, Dr Azeem (Assistant Professor, SAHSOL) explained, because of procedural grounds like limitation having run out due to delays by KiK in compensating the victims. He explained that the outsourcing system at the heart of global supply chains has been challenged via litigation across the world since the late 1990s, but all ultimately failed.

The film touches on the themes of organising social and political movements, the experience of modern factory workers and the challenges of litigation both local and in districts courts in Germany. In the discussion that followed the film, Directors Christopher Patz and Ammar Aziz spoke of the politics that informed the making of the film and the gains since this litigation failed — such as new legislation in Germany that makes retailers responsible for conditions in their supply chains.

Dr Muhammad Azeem and Professor Hiba Akbar contributed an expert opinion to this litigation in Germany in 2017. Dr Azeem has subsequently contributed a book chapter on global value chains to the book, “Transnational Legal Activism in Global Value Chains: The Ali Enterprise Factory Fire and the Struggle for Justice” (Springer, 2021).

 

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