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New fatal fire as talks continue on Bangladeshi safety plan

9 May, 2013Another factory fire kills eight people, as death toll after Rana Plaza collapse reaches 900 and negotiations between IndustriALL and international clothing brands intensify before the 15 May deadline for a binding fire and building safety plan for Bangladesh.

Yet another garment factory fire occurred at 11pm on 8 May, killing at least eight people in the Mirpur industrial district of Dhaka. The fire at the 11-storey building owned by the garment exporting Tung Hai Group could have been disastrous had it occurred during the day when hundreds of workers toil in the building.

The eight people killed were the building executives holding a meeting and a police officer and drivers. Although the fire broke out on the third floor and the meeting was held on the top floor, the eight killed were trapped.  Tung Hai had other factory fires in 2009 and 2010 and produces for well-known retailers.

On 8 May the Bangladeshi authorities announced the closure of 18 garment factories for failing to comply with safety regulations.

The latest fatal fire added a dramatic sense of urgency to IndustriALL’s negotiations with international clothing brands and retailers that source from Bangladesh. The parties have agreed on a 15 May deadline to seal a binding Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. The Accord foresees a coordinated system of inspections, training and financial commitments necessary to build a sustainable garment industry, and empowering workers to refuse dangerous work.

IndustriALL has welcomed the joint statement issued on the occasion of a 1-4 May high-level mission of the International Labour Organization (ILO) to Dhaka. It includes commitments on an ILO-compliant labour law reform by June focusing on freedom of association and collective bargaining, guarantees hundreds of new inspectors and extensive training programs.

The responsibility of the retail corporations is most clearly illustrated by the tiny percentage of their profits that go to labour costs and safety costs. An average of US 2 cents of profit on a t-shirt would double the salary of the Bangladeshi that made it. An average of US 10 cents of profit on each garment would pay for a transformation of safety standards across the entire industry in Bangladesh.

The IndustriALL Bangladesh Council’s unified demand on wages is for an immediate increase from 3000 taka per month to 5000, to be followed by incremental increases each year to arrive at a living wage in the year 2015, in a process similar to that seen in Vietnam currently.

Hundreds of thousands of supporters, activists and trade unionists have joined a number of online petitions calling for change in Bangladesh towards creating a more sustainable garment industry.

The death toll has reached 900 in Savar as bodies are still being pulled out of the rubble.  IndustriALL affiliates are contributing to the humanitarian relief effort, including CA$15,000 from the USW of Canada.

Click here to listen to IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina tell Radio Labour the latest on the negotiations with brands:

We will use the global muscle of IndustriALL to create sustainable conditions for garment workers, with the right to join a union, with living wages, and safe and healthy working conditions.