IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina joins a May Day march to call for justice for workers killed in the Dhaka tragedy. Photo IndustriALL
Take action today over Dhaka deaths: tell multinational companies to sign up!
I blogged last week about what you can do to help Bangladeshi workers prevent more tragedies like the Dhaka factory collapse that has now claimed over 610 lives and the Tazreen factory fire which claimed 112 in November. Now global e-petition machine Avaaz has joined the union campaign, encouraging its millions of supporters globally to pressurise the multinational brands to sign the factory safety agreement that global union federation IndustriALL has proposed.
Please sign that petition and encourage as many of your friends, family and workmates to do so. The deadline set by IndustriALL is 15 May, so there are only a few days left for the multinationals who have profited out of low wages to do the right thing (you can also make a donation to IndustriALL’s fund for the humanitarian effort in Savar – the area around the Rana Plaza factory).
Meanwhile, the ILO’s tripartite mission to Bangladesh – led by former Prime Minister of Togo and now ILO Deputy Director General Gilbert Houngbo – has issued a concise and hard-hitting set of recommendations to the Government of Bangladesh. The key five points of its strategy are unequivocal and uncompromising:
- labour law reform that would improve protection, in law and practice, for the fundamental rights to freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, as well as occupational safety and health;
- assess by the end of 2013 the structural building safety and fire safety of all active export-oriented ready-made garment factories in Bangladesh, and initiate remedial actions, including relocation of unsafe factories;
- an ILO skills programme for workers injured in the recent tragic events at Tazreen Fashions Ltd., Smart Export Garments and Rana Plaza that resulted in disability, as well as redeploymenta nd rehabilitation;
- recruit, within 6 months, 200 additional inspectors, upgrade the Department of the Chief Inspector of Factories and Establishments to a Directorate with the budget for a minimum of 800 inspectors; and
- implement the National Tripartite Plan of Action on Fire Safety in the Ready-Made Garment Industry in Bangladesh, extended to include structural integrity of buildings to improve health, occupational and structural safety.
The strategy would certainly get the support of Financial Times ‘Undercover Economist’ Tim Harford. Arguing against a boycott of Bangladeshi textiles (and certainly, no Bangladeshi union has asked for that!), he correctly identifies the key change that Bangladeshi workers need to secure higher wages, better safety standards, and dignity at the workplace – the right to join a free trade union. He concludes:
“One other thing: poor countries need to allow trade unions to operate – unlike in Bangladesh, where union activists have been harassed and even killed. …
“Ultimately, whatever western consumers demand, what determines whether rules about working conditions are upheld is that workers on the factory floor have a voice and some power.”