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Bangladesh: agreement on fire safety in textiles required

26 November, 2012More than 100 workers died and as many were injured in a horrific fire at the Tazreen Fashion garment factory near Dhaka on 24 November. IndustriALL Global Union calls for a government and union agreement on fire and building safety in Bangladesh.

The fire broke out in the evening ripping through the multi-floor garment factory on the outskirts of Dhaka in Bangladesh, burning the factory to the ground. Female workers were cut off as piles of fabric that filled corridors ignited. Early reports indicate that second and third floors were locked forcing many workers to leap to their death from upper floors. The reported 124 deaths and over 150 injuries are expected to rise.

Profoundly shocked by the incident, IndustriALL Global Union conveys its condolences to the families of the victims and its solidarity to the injured workers. The massive fire disaster did not only kill more than 100 workers but also killed the future of their families, their dreams and their hopes.

Fire disasters, especially in the garment sector, are on the rise in many countries of the Asia Pacific Region. The Bangladeshi government reports that 414 apparel workers died in fires between 2006 and 2009. In 2010, two large fires resulted in the deaths of 50 Bangladeshi workers. More than 300 workers were killed in devastating factory fires at a garment factory in Karachi and a shoe factory in Lahore, Pakistan on 11 September 2012. 

Together with the unions in the Asia Pacific region, IndustriALL Global Union will put pressure on governments to properly enforce national laws on health and safety issues in general and on fire safety in particular. IndustriALL Global Union demands that:

  • Governments must play a critical role in long-term, sustainable change by updating laws and implementing regulations, improving factory inspections, and establishing the tripartite framework necessary for appropriate relations between employer and labour stakeholders.
  • Factory owners and operators must commit to facilitate and support a continuing cycle of safety management based on ongoing dialogue between management and trade unions or worker elected representatives.
  • Brand owners and retailers must verify that the factories they use comply with applicable safety standards and must ensure that their pricing and sourcing practices make this feasible.

“There are many organizations and programs fighting for better working conditions in the textile, garment, shoes and leather industries worldwide today, but only strong regional trade unions in collaboration with IndustriALL Global Union will be able to stop the ruinous competition at the cost of fire and building safety and therefore at the cost of workers and their families. Together trade unions will have more power at multiple levels to put pressure on governments, employers and international brand owners,” said Monika Kemperle, Assistant General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union.