Unions mark 8th anniversary of Bangladesh Rana Plaza industrial disaster
On the 8th anniversary of the horrific Rana Plaza disaster in Dhaka, Bangladesh unions in Canada and around the world are demanding better wages, working conditions and protections for garment workers as well as the extension of the Bangladesh Accord.
A Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) statement reads:
April 24 marks the grim eighth anniversary of one of the world’s worst industrial disasters. The collapse of the Rana Plaza building killed 1,132 garment workers and injured more than 2,500 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. In solidarity with the labour movement in Bangladesh, CUPE is joining Canadian unions and civil society organizations to demand better working conditions and respect for garment workers’ rights.
Bangladesh is the world’s second-largest clothing exporter. During the COVID-19 crisis, hundreds of factories closed as international and Canadian brands and retailers cancelled orders and refused to pay for orders already in production. Factories fired over a million workers and many employers refused to pay severance pay that workers had legally earned. Workers had no savings from subsistence-level wages and no access to social programs to support them. The forecast remains dire for garment sector workers, as global demand for clothing remains low.
For years, workers in Bangladesh have been courageously organizing and fighting for their rights. They need the solidarity and support of people in countries like Canada, which is home to companies that produce clothing in Bangladesh.
CUPE has signed a joint statement calling on Canadian brands and retailers to respect workers’ rights, and ensure suppliers pay workers living wages and social benefits.
The joint statement is by the Canadian Labour Congress, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Centre international de solidarité ouvrière, Inter Pares, Maquila Solidarity Network, Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, Oxfam Canada, Public Service Alliance of Canada, United Steelworkers and Workers United Canada Council. It relates that:
In the years since, global initiatives, primarily the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, have achieved remarkable improvements to health and safety standards and practices in targeted Bangladesh factories. Much more needs to be done to ensure this progress stays on track and to keep improving the working conditions for the women who make our clothes. Safe factories, workers’ jobs, incomes and benefits remain at risk as the global pandemic continues to wreak havoc on global markets and economies. The people at the bottom rung of the supply chain should not have to bear the brunt of the crisis.
Global union IndustriALL tells of how it was out of
the rubble of the Rana Plaza collapse, the Bangladesh Accord was created. The legally binding agreement has transformed factory safety in Bangladesh’ garment industry, saved lives, supported freedom of association and increased collective bargaining. The Accord expires at the end of next month, and it not only needs to stay, it needs to be expanded to cover garment workers worldwide.
They note as "the Accord is nearing its end-date, global fashion brands must continue to guarantee safe working conditions at their suppliers in Bangladesh and step up to ensure that workers in their supply chains globally have safe factories to work in."
According to the joint statement:
Bangladesh is the world’s second-largest clothing exporter and during the COVID‑19 crisis, hundreds of factories closed as international and Canadian brands and retailers cancelled orders and refused to pay for orders already in production. Factories fired over a million workers and many refused to pay legally earned severance pay. Workers were left with no savings from subsistence‑level salaries and no access to social protection to support them in times of trouble. The forecast remains dire for garment sector workers as global demand for apparel items remains low.
It is of immense importance to build up social protection systems in Bangladesh and other garment-producing countries. Trade unions and labour rights organizations call for strengthened unemployment protection and the respect for all workers’ rights, including the right to organize. Retailers and brands must take responsibility for issues in their supply chains and contribute to a global wage assurance and severance guarantee fund to help workers survive the crisis.
Workers in Bangladesh have been courageously organizing and fighting for their rights for years but need the support of voices in purchasing countries such as Canada, in order to push Canadian brands to rebuild a just economy after the pandemic by establishing more sustainable and resilient supply chains that respect workers’ rights and ensure suppliers pay workers living wages and social benefits.
They want the government of Canada to:
legislate companies to respect human rights in their global operations and supply chains. Such legislation should require companies to conduct due diligence on their human rights and environmental risks, take appropriate steps to prevent and mitigate such risks and hold companies accountable in the courts if they abuse human rights.
They also are calling on people to support "workers in Canadian supply chains by writing to Canadian companies Lululemon Athletica and YM Group to contribute to a Severance Guarantee Fund."
This can be done via email at Tell Lululemon and YM Group Inc. to protect garment workers from wage theft! | Canadian Labour Congress or on Twitter via Protect garment workers from wage theft! | Canadian Labour Congress.