24 April, 2013In what is likely to be the worst ever industrial accident in Bangladesh more than 100 garment workers have died and hundreds more are injured. The tragedy occurred at 9am, 24 April, at the eight-story Rana Plaza building in Savar, 30 kilometres outside Dhaka.
The collapsed building contained six garment factories and hundreds of workers and was allegedly illegally built and had a large structural crack appear in its wall yesterday. When local authorities brought the crack to the attention of the garment factory owners ordering them to evacuate they were ignored, while the shop and bank on the building’s ground floor heeded the warning and evacuated.
Now 500 workers are injured, many critically, 102 are dead and many more can be heard from under the rubble screaming for help and screaming that they do not want to die while rescue teams attempt to reach them. The IndustriALL Global Union affiliated textile and garment trade unions in Bangladesh are present and supporting the rescue efforts. Affiliates work jointly through the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC) which today used a joint press conference to put forward joint demands and programme of action, calling for justice and action from authorities and brands. The IBC will mobilize all affiliates in a mass demonstration on 26 April in front of the Dhaka Press Club.
Reports are strongly indicating that several well-known brands sourced from factories in the Rana Plaza building including Mango, British Primark, C&A, KIK and Wal-Mart. The systemic problems must be tackled immediately in Bangladesh’s garment industry and much responsibility must fall on the western clothing brands making enormous profits from items made in deadly conditions on poverty wages.
Much needed improvements to the national labour law have been debated through Bangladesh’s legislative process, with the government cabinet approving revisions on 22 April. However this process has been lobbied by the global garment industry buyers who have demanded a scaling back of workers’ rights initially proposed in the reform.
IndustriALL Global Union believes that Bangladeshi garment workers deserve the right to work in safety, with full access to organize and bargain collectively in trade unions, including a substantial raise of the current US$38 monthly minimum wage.
IndustriALL Global Union General Secretary Jyrki Raina said:
This terrible tragedy highlights the urgency of putting a stop to the race to the bottom in supplying cheap means of production to international brands, a race in which hundreds of workers have lost their lives. Global clothing brands and retailers have a responsibility for their full production chains. Now it is time for them, suppliers and the Bangladeshi government to sit down with IndustriALL and its affiliates to agree on a safety program that will ensure this will never happen again.
In response to today’s tragedy, the IBC is calling for:
- A Judicial Commission to investigate the incident
- Punishment of the owners of the building and the factories for criminal negligence
- Safe working places not death traps
- Compensation to the families of the victims
- Treatment of the injured