In the past year hundreds of workers in the textile and garment industry in Bangladesh have been killed, working in unsafe conditions in factories which supply western countries and High Street stores with branded clothing.
The collapse of a building housing eight factories in Rana Plaza, Dhaka on April 24th with hundreds killed and workers still missing is the culmination of neglect, abuse, greed and exploitation by the owners of these factories who produce goods for the western market – supplying outlets such as Primark and Mango.
The television coverage of the tragedy has been truly shocking and shown a complete disregard for basic health and safety and building regulations. Many of them still use of child labour. Even when workers at the Rana Plaza factories complained that the building was cracking, the owners forced them back to work. Warrants for the arrest of the owners of the building have now been issued.
The latest outrage at Rana Plaza, is one in a long line of tragedies where workers have lost their lives and their loved ones. Last year many workers were burned to death in a fire at the Tazreen Fashions factory.
The UK media is asking – how did this happen and how come UK outlets ignore what has been plain to see for years – yet the outlets and fashion chains still do business with the companies in order to supply a seemingly insatiable demand branded clothing at cut price rates.
The global union federation IndustriALL (of which Unite and the USW are major affiliates) has been running a campaign to support workers in the Bangladesh textile and garment industry for sometime.
Trade union membership in this sector in Bangladesh is low – reportedly as low as 1% and there are a plethora of unions.
Workers and their unions who have stood up and demonstrated against these outrages have faced attacks by the police and security forces. Union officials and organisers face harassment, violence and death.
In 2010 Unite and the United Steelworkers, through Workers Uniting, supported thousands of garment workers in Bangladesh (the majority of them women) who went on strike in a fight for a pay increase and decent working conditions.
Only pressure on these outlets and on the Bangladesh government will begin to change this terrible situation.
IndustriALL/LabourStart have set up a campaign site to “Make garment factories in Bangladesh safe”. You can help the campaign by clicking here and signing the letter to the Bangladesh Prime Minister demanding an end to these outrages.
- Sign the Change.org petition organised by the National Garment Workers’ Federation in Bangladesh, telling Primark, Matalan and Mango to take responsibility for their supply chains
- Tell Disney and Walmart to compensate the victims of the Tazreen Fashions fire
- Demand an investigation into the murder of Bangladeshi union activist Aminul Islam
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