KARACHI - Sindh Minister for Information and Labour Syed Nasir Hussain Shah has conceded that negligence was shown in the past owing to which life-taking incidents of labourers occurred.

“But rest assured, things are bound to get normal in near future as the government officials have started visiting the industrial units on a regular basis, issuing warning letters to the negligent owners of these industries whereas strict action will be taken against officials of the labour department who have not been performing well,” said the minister while addressing the 7th Fire Safety and Security Convention as a chief guest on Wednesday.

The National Forum for Environment and Health (NFEH) and Fire Protection Association of Pakistan (FPAP) had jointly organised the event.

The minister said that slackness on the part of authorities concerned led to such undesirable circumstances under which industrial accidents took place in the past.

“But the provincial Labour Department is now completely resolved to fully implement labour safety laws in industries through constant process of strict inspection,” he assured.

He informed that a step was taken recently to ensure safety and security of workers and labourers at their workplaces. “The step was taken when the proposed Sindh Occupational Safety and Health Bill, 2017 was approved at the last meeting of the Sindh cabinet on 5th of this month,” he added.

Nasir said the proposed bill would be tabled in the upcoming session of Sindh Assembly for its passage.

He further said that the Sindh government was going to convene a tripartite conference for the first time in the country’s history, in which there would be a representation of industrialists, the government and labourers so that they could discuss issues related to safety and security of labourers in industrial units as per standards of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

He said the provincial government was doing its best to provide complete financial assistance to the victim families of 2012 Baldia Factory fire incident to the complete satisfaction of ILO and other concerned international labour agencies.

The provincial labour minister said that the Sindh government had started procuring new fire engines for each and every industrial estate of the province as the concerned association of every industrial zone had assured the government that it would fully meet the generator’s expenses.

Earlier, in his remarks, Federal B Area Association of Trade and Industry President M Babar Khan said that officials and inspectors, belonging to the Labour Department and Civil Defence Organisations, had no interest in inspecting the industries other than minting money from the industrialists.

“I had urged the inspectors of Labour Department and Civil Defence several times to conduct emergency drills in my factory, but they never showed up for the purpose,” he said.

He stressed the need for purging the Labour and Civil Defence departments of corrupt elements so that these departments could play their part in the safety and security of labourers at their workplaces.

President of Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry Muffasar Atta Malik lamented that the local government agencies lacked fire fighting resources to such an extent that the city’s authorities could not handle two major fire incidents at a time.

He said that there should be a functional fire station for every group of 100,000 people in the city. ‘Instead of having 150 fire stations, the city has been doing with mere 15 fire stations,” said the KCCI president.

Vice-President of Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry Mirza Ishtiaq Baig said that fire fighters who lost their lives in the line of duty should be formally declared heroes and martyrs of the nation while the government should announce gallantry awards for them.

President of SITE Super Highway Association of Industries Dr Kaiser Waheed regretted that industrialists had to look towards the provincial government for making fire fighting arrangements as the relevant municipal agencies had completely failed to discharge their responsibilities in this regard.

Prof Mohammad Masood Rafi of NED University, Fawad Barry, managing-director of a fire safety consultancy firm, President FPAP Imran Taj, Khalid Nadeem, vice-president FPAP and Fire Safety Advisor of K-Electric, NFEH President Naeem Qureshi also spoke on the occasion.