A certificate was issued to the factory by RINA Services S.p.
A, an Italian inspection company, just 22 days before the deadly fire, finding that the factory complied with all the necessary fire and safety mechanisms and labor laws.
The working conditions in smaller factories are usually worse than those in larger ones that are more likely to be inspected, particularly if supplying to international brands.
Owners of the smaller factories are more likely to refuse to pay the statutory minimum wage and use short-term oral contracts.
Five years earlier, on September 12, 2012, Pakistan witnessed the worst industrial disaster in its history when a fire at the Ali Enterprises garment factory in Karachi killed at least 255 workers and injured more than 100.
Investigations found a series of irregularities and an almost complete absence of fire and safety mechanisms.The factory management marks the attendance of the workers themselves and signs everybody out after nine hours so that if the record is ever inspected, it would appear that the management is complying with the law.In truth, we work longer hours and there is not even sick leave.When I came back to work, I was not allowed to enter and was told that I had been terminated. Some of the smaller factories sometimes employ children, including as young as 13, to avoid paying minimum wage and overtime.Human Rights Watch spoke to nine children working in garment factories, all of them producing for the domestic market. The management can avoid giving them an employment contract or other benefits because workers under the age of 18 do not have a national identification card (NIC), which is often used as a pretext for denying official wages.According to some estimates, Pakistan’s garment industry employs 15 million people, some 38 percent of the manufacturing labor force.But a combination of lack of job security that make it easier to dismiss and control workers, poor government labor inspection and enforcement, and aggressive tactics against independent unions, make it difficult for workers to assert their rights.The bulk of the manufacturing, however, takes place in the informal economy, operating in small, unregistered shops, and unmarked buildings.These small factories produce for domestic brands, both registered and unregistered.Violations of workers’ rights are a problem in nearly all these factories and include practices contrary to both Pakistani law and codes of conduct that Western retailers insist, often in production contracts, that their suppliers follow.Workers, many of them women, told Human Rights Watch that they experience physical as well as verbal abuse, sometimes of a sexual nature, as well as forced overtime, denial of paid maternity leave, medical leave, and failure to pay the statutory minimum wages.