Bangladeshi Workers Rally for Union Rights after Deadly Fire

Bangladeshi garment workers marched to demand punishment of the owners responsible for Saturday's deadly fire and for lost earnings for the families. Union rights would help prevent such tragedies, they said. Photo: NGWF.

The National Garment Workers Federation of Bangladesh reports here on a 1,000-worker rally held to protest the deaths of 125 workers in a factory fire Saturday. The garment workers group lays out its demands for justice.

Factory owners, Government, Buyers, and Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) should take effective step so that not a single Garment worker in future has to die in factory-fire.

We do not want to see such incident, which workers return to their home as dead body after they came to work. So, the garment factories should be developed as “safe workplace.” Factory owners, Government, Buyers, and trade union organizations should work together for this, NGWF leaders said today.

They said this while addressing a garment workers gathering—before black & red flag mourning & protest procession—organized by National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF) to protest the killing of 125 workers in Tazreen Garment factory-fire at Ashulia.

The gathering was to pay tributes to the deceased workers and demand greater compensation (as per definition of loss of earnings) to deceased workers’ families, necessary medical treatment to injured workers, and developing garment industry into safe workplace. The program was held at 12:00 noon in front of National Press Club in Dhaka city. More than 1,000 garment workers took part in the program.

The speakers told the rally that the 125 garment workers died due to negligence of the factory owners. So, this nothing but killing of workers in owner’s negligence. They demanded immediate trial & punishment of the factory owner for the responsibility of this killing.

At the rally the NGWF announced a 7-point charter of demands:

  • Family of the each of the deceased workers should be paid greater compensation as definition of loss of earnings. Responsibility of paying this compensation lies with the factory owner, multinational companies who were sourcing from the factory, government, and BGMEA.
  • Urgent arrangement of necessary medical treatment to injured workers.
  • Punishment of the persons, including factory owner, responsible for the fire incident after identifying the perpetrators of the offense through conducting a neutral enquiry.
  • The whole garment sector in Bangladesh should be developed into “safe workplace.” Factory owners, buyers, government, and labor organizations should work together for this.
  • Ensuring unhindered trade union right and collective bargaining facilities for the garment workers.
  • Implementation of law of the land, including Labor Law, in garment industry.
  • Suppressing, in iron hand, any move by any quarters to destabilize the country using the garment sector.

Meanwhile, NGWF brought out a black-flag mourning procession on November 25 to express grief at the death of 125 garment workers. On November 26 NGWF, Bangladesh National Committee, & Bangladesh Garment Workers Unity Council held another black-flag mourning procession in Dhaka city.

Besides, NGWF is maintaining contacts with the families of the dead workers and injured workers.

For information on the Tazreen factory’s connection to Walmart, read here.

A version of this article appeared in Labor Notes 405, December 2012. Don't miss an issue, subscribe today.