Bangladesh Factory Fire
There are two facts that come to mind whilst composing this post, first the world is a much smaller place in the 21 century, and secondly, much more can be done to support workers in struggle wherever they are in the world.
More than two million garment workers, mostly female, in
are among the lowest paid in the world. Protests started in the summer when workers were locked out at three Outright Group garment factories in the Ashulia district after agitating for a wage increase. Within an hour, the protest swelled, underscoring a growing militancy among workers. When the police attacked, workers tried to defend themselves by throwing stones and overturning vehicles. A local newspaper reported that this turned “the entire area into a virtual battlefield”. Bangladesh
The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) closed down all 250 factories in the district, fearing that the struggle would spread to other factories. BGMEA president Abdus Salam Murshedy expressed concern that “violent protests could jeopardise the industry’s future” and claimed that “troublemakers are aiming to destabilise the state”. Factories were reopened on June 23 after the government assured the BGMEA of a crackdown on workers.
Under the impact of the international recession, both the government and the employers are desperate to retain low wages. On June 22, labour minister Khandker Mosharraf Hossain announced that garment factories would be divided into three zones—Ashulia, Naryanganj and Gazipur—where committees of police and local government politicians would supervise security measures to re-open factories. The next day, police filed cases against a large number of unidentified workers on charges of assaulting police and ransacking factories.
Many young garment workers, most 16-30 years of age, are not even paid the minimum wage.
Workers cannot cope with basic expenses, including food, shelter, health care, transport and education for their children. The cost of living has been rising by 10-15 percent annually. According to an International Labour Organisation survey in 2007, 89 percent of workers work more than 8 hours a day. Recent surveys show that 90 percent share beds to sleep.
And so tensions remain high in the Bangladeshi garment industry; on Sunday last a bloody crackdown by the Awami League government, in which police fatally shot four striking workers, followed two days latter and over 30 people were killed after a devastating blaze raced through a garment factory that supplies major multinationals such as Gap and JCPenney near Bangladesh's capital. Many of the dead included trapped workers who jumped from the smoldering building engulfed by flames. Workers' safety in the rapidly growing textile industry is a major concern; and workers rights groups say safety standards are still inadequate in many factories.
In February, a fire at a sweater factory just outside
Dhaka killed 21 people and injured dozens. The recent protests by low-paid garment workers have gripped the country. Workers demanding the implementation of a new minimum wage clashed with police at an industrial zone in southeastern leaving people dead and hurt. Bangladesh
Garment workers in
are among the lowest-paid in the world, according to the International Trade Union Confederation. In the first increase since 2006, the government in July raised the official minimum wage to 3,000 takas ($45) a month from 1,662 takas ($25). The new pay structure took effect in November, but workers say many factories haven't implemented it yet. Bangladesh
In closing this post I would like to appeal for solidarity and support, you may think, what can I do? Well there is a lot which can be done such as talk to others about this disgusting situation and dispute that Bangladeshi workers find themselves in, and think about some of the very well known and recognized shops that are a party to the exploitation and victimisation of these very poor workers the worst paid in the world. I’m asking people to boycott a list of shops which will follow the end of this post, but whatever you do remember truth hurts, get the word out use the internet and stand by people not profit, thank you.
Boycott: Wal-Mart, Tesco, H&M, Zara, Carrefour, Gap, Metro, JCPenney, Marks & Spencer, Kohl's, Levi Strauss and Tommy Hilfiger.