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Bangladesh: fire safety responsibility of government and brands

13 December, 2012IndustriALL calls again on the Bangladeshi government to secure the future of the country’s garment industry by doing more on guaranteeing fire safety and for brands to support this.

IndustriALL Global Union in collaboration with Bangladeshi trade unions continues to promote the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement that was agreed with PvH in March and Tchibo in September to stop unsafe working conditions in apparel factories and to stop competition between employers and governments at the cost of fire and building safety.

IndustriALL calls upon all brands involved in the Tazreen fire and all brands sourcing from Bangladesh to sign the Bangladeshi Fire and Building Safety agreement as soon as possible. Furthermore IndustriALL supports the Bangladeshi Trade Union Demands on Fire Safety.

Garment workers in Bangladesh continue to protest in the streets of Ashulia, a manufacturing hub outside Dhaka, to demand better working conditions and safety in garment factories in the country.

Meanwhile workers are frequently fleeing from factories in fear of fires following the devastating fire that left more than 120 workers dead, mostly women paid as little as 37 dollars a month, at the Tazreen Fashion garment factory near Dhaka on 24 November 2012.  US giant Walmart, Dutch retailer C&A, Hong Kong supplier Li & Fung and the brand owned by US rapper Sean "Diddy" Combs were the customers of the factory.

Reports on a recent round of fire safety inspections in Bangladesh, since the blaze, indicate that 25 per cent of the 232 factories inspected by Bangladesh authorities were deemed unsafe. Bangladesh’s US$20 billion-a-year garment industry, which accounts for 80 per cent of the country’s total export earnings, employs more than 3 million people, most of them women from rural areas, in 4,000 garment factories.

IndustriALL wrote to the Bangladeshi Prime Minister requesting a meeting and demanding his government enforce national laws on health and safety and on fire safety in particular.

Jyrki Raina, General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union, is calling for multi-stakeholder consultation, wherein, brands, government, industries and trade unions develop an integrated plan of action to ensure work places are made fire proof and that workplace are safe and not a death trap.

“We are saddened and outraged by the death of more than 100 workers in Tazreen Fashion factory. This is not the first deadly fire accident in garment factories in Bangladesh, yet workers are still waiting for measures to be taken to ensure safety in the workplace,” said Raina.

Raina is also calling for compensation of the bereaved families and free medical support for the injured and a high-level judiciary inquiry into the tragedy.

“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,” said Raina.