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German textile brand KiK was in the line of fire at protests by trade unions in Pakistan on Friday for refusing to pay promised compensation to the relatives of 259 workers killed in a factory fire three years ago. Thousands of workers rallied in major cities across Sindh with banners and placards criticising the low-cost clothing retailer and the government.

The demonstrations took place exactly three years after the blaze, which was the deadliest industrial disaster in the country's history. The flames gutted the huge compound of Ali Enterprises, textile manufacturers located at the edge of Karachi which supplied products to KiK. The brand agreed to pay compensation in three instalments but backed out on its promise after a one-time disbursement of one million US dollars, union leader Nisar Mansoor said.

Mansoor described the rallies as a "commemoration as well as protest against the government to provide workers a safe working environment and against KiK to fulfil its commitment." Families of the victims filed a case against KiK in the German city of Dortmund this year. KiK reiterated in a court statement last week that it is not obligated to pay any more compensation.

"This is unfair," said Obaidullah Ansari, who lost two relatives in the fire. "KiK must live up to its promise." Mansoor said the company was legally bound to pay long-term compensation under International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions. Calls to boycott KiK products have gained traction in recent years with the retailer linked to two similar disasters in Bangladesh: the Tazreen factory fire in 2012 which killed 112 workers and the Rana Plaza factory building collapse a year later which claimed 42 lives.

Copyright Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 2015

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