Dhaka deaths: with companies signing up, now help victims’ families
Three weeks ago, over 1,100 textile workers were killed when the Rana Plaza building collapsed near Dhaka, Bangladesh. By the stroke of midnight yesterday, over thirty of the world’s biggest retail and textile companies (including Tesco, Primark, Sainsbury’s, Next, Marks and Spencer, New Look and John Lewis) signed up to the IndustriALL/UNI-Global Accord on Building and Fire Safety in Bangladesh.
These horrific and historic weeks have shown the power of global solidarity. Emails asking fashion retailers to sign the Accord were sent by almost 1 million people via Avaaz and over 85,000 people via Change.org. When this effort was combined with campaigns by global union federations IndustriALL and UNI-Global and national trade union confederations like the TUC (with our 2p wage campaign that went viral and reached over a third of a million Facebook users), the need for companies to act was overwhelming.
Now it is time for global solidarity to support trade unions in Bangladesh to enable them to play a real part in the safety programmes that the Accord will launch. Today TUC Aid is launching an appeal for donations to help the families of ready-made garment workers in Dhaka. You can give on line, persuade friends, families and workmates to do the same, or send a cheque made out to TUC Aid Dhaka Disaster to TUC Aid, Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS.
The Accord commits retailers to pay for and implement systematic safety programmes in the factories they source from in Bangladesh. As these safety programs were developed by trade unions, they require factories to involve workers and trade unions at every stage – in governance, factory inspections and staff training in health and safety. The involvement of workers in safety plans is crucial for them to actually make a difference.
Trade unions in the garment sector remain weak, although recent days have seen significant changes in the law to allow garment workers to freely form unions. As I blogged previously – where unions are weak, workers feel too afraid to speak out about health and safety at work. We know workers at Rana Plaza were so scared they would have their pay docked for missing a day’s work that even when visible cracks emerged on the walls, they still went to work in the building. That is why we must strengthen trade unions in Bangladesh to make sure no more lives are lost.