CCC & workers unions demand safety overhaul in apparel industry
After fire killed twenty-one people and injured a further 50 in a Bangladesh factory fire at the end of February, workers unions and international labour-rights organisations demand an overhaul of safety regulations in the industry.
"This was no accident, this was going to happen," said Tessel Pauli of the Clean Clothes Campaign, an international labour-rights organisation. "Bangladesh industries are infamous for very bad health and safety conditions. Garib and Garib, producing for well-known brands such as H&M and the Italian Terranova, was no exception," she said
"The Clean Clothes Campaign and our Bangladesh partners have been calling for implementation of the safety rules since 2000, following many similarly fatal accidents," added Ms. Pauli. "But the fashion brands, government and manufacturers just continue making money and don't care about the risks for workers. Their attitude amounts to criminal negligence."
Workers were trapped inside the burning building when emergency exits appeared locked, stairways blocked with goods and production materials, and ventilation in the building poor. Fire fighters reported that the factory's fire equipment was "virtually useless."
A fire in the same factory killed a fire fighter and injured seven in August 2009.
International fashion firms like H&M and Terranova are also accused of sloppy monitoring of their own supply-chain safety rules. The Swedish fashion giant H&M reports that its October 2009 audit of this factory did not reveal any shortcomings on safety measures.
On the other hand, US supermarkets chain Wal-Mart and the Canadian workwear company Marks Workwear House confirmed that it was the lamentable state of safety measures that made them decide to stop ordering from this factory. Still, none of the brands took sufficient measures to prevent this disaster from happening, either by pushing the owner and the manufacturers' association BGMEA to take action or reporting to the government, unions or other stakeholders.
"We need a thorough review of how health and safety regulations are being implemented," said Mr. Amirul Haq Amin of the National Garment Workers Federation. "The fire at Garib & Garib is no exception. Everywhere the regulations are ignored," he added. "Unless we change the situation now, similar dramas will continue to happen."
"I strongly believe that if you are serious about preventing future deaths you must immediately start involving workers in monitoring health and safety standards," added Mr. Amin. "This can only be done through supporting the right to organise and working directly with trade unions."
The NGWF also demands more financial compensation for the victims of this fire and their families, as well as a criminal investigation into the alleged negligence of safety rules.
The Clean Clothes Campaign launched an online letter-writing action to urge international brands, the Bangladeshigovernment and local manufacturers to take decisive action.
Clean Clothes Campaign