Bangladesh factory collapse shows unions are a matter of life and death
‘Forty found alive after Dhaka building collapse’.
You know a situation is dire when the number that managed to survive makes the news. This is one of the latest headlines about the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh yesterday which has killed over 230 people, according to the latest estimates. Many of those killed were workers. The building contained six garment factories which, reports suggest, were supplying some of the largest Western retailers such as Primark.
These events prove the importance of trade unions to safeguard health and safety standards in the global supply chain, as I blogged yesterday morning.
IndustriALL, the global union federation, has reported that the day before it collapsed, cracks could be seen in the building – which had been built illegally. However, workers were so worried that they would have their pay docked for failing to turn up, that they continued to work in the factories on the 24th April until the building pillars gave way, crushing hundreds under the rubble.
Today, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady pledged solidarity with unions in Bangladesh in their campaign for justice for those workers who were injured and lost their lives, stating:
‘This appalling loss of life proves that, in the global race to the bottom on working conditions, the finishing line is Bangladesh.’
The IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC) is asking for a Judicial Commission to investigate the incident, punishment of the owners of the building and the factories for criminal negligence and compensation for the families of the victims.
Crucially, they are also calling for all factories to guarantee a safe working environment and respect workers right to form unions and collectively bargain. The pressure to do this must come from the large retailers who source from Bangladesh as well as the Bangladeshi government to provide more worker protection in their labour law. All must work with trade unions to make sure workers themselves feel genuinely protected and well treated at work.
No worker should have to risk their life for fear of speaking out about their own safety.
UPDATE 26/04/13: Take action now – Send a letter to the Bangladesh Prime Minister and Minister for Labour and Employment to improve labour standards and join LabourStart/IndustriALL’s campaign.