New Factory Fire Shatters The Illusion Of Safety

The fire at the Matrix Sweater Factory is special. It is special despite the fact the previous fires have claimed lives and this one (fortunately) didn’t. The 6000 workers of this factory narrowly escaped certain fatalities due to an accident of fortune which worked well for them – but not so well for their predecessors. The timing of the fire was just a matter of sheer luck.

fire

So you may ask “why is this special?” – to this there is a simple answer, IT WAS A FACTORY INSPECTED BY THE AMERICAN ALLIANCE + EUROPEAN ACCORD [1]. They did prescribe improvements to the factory, but did not have is closed for necessary corrections. While many other factories had been closed previously by these bodies which caused job losses and a lot of pain for workers.

The great enterprise of INGOs + Politicians turned trade unionists (or vice-versa) + and the Buyers (from where the cash comes) despite all its antics can churn out something like this and can still get away with it is simply called “hypocrisy”. Since when did it become a law that a body that is so deeply involved in ensuring safety can be given a “Green Card” because of its affiliation with certain bodies which has earned itself a title of being the Flagship of Business Ethics? A self proclaimed prophet who cannot be held responsible for anything?

We would hold everyone involved directly in ensuring the safety of the garment sector responsible for this fire – and leading that group would be the signatories of the Alliance and the Accord. The Gentlemen with their excellent lifestyles must be treated with the same scrutiny (if not 10 times greater scrutiny) for such disasters, as not only are the governments (of poor countries like Bangladesh) or its own public and the workers have given them the privilege to work to ensure the safety of these factories – but also due to the fact that the very PRIVILEGE that they enjoy while living their “high European lives” in our poor country IS SOMETHING THEY HAVE CARVED FOR THEMSELVES IN THE NAME of our poorest workers. Yes sir – The Accord and The Alliance definitely are responsible for not doing more.

We hope – the nightmares don’t come true. The Fire of Tazreen followed soon by the Collapse of Rana Plaza is still too fresh for the workers and for their families and friends to witness yet another tragedy.

Enough money and enough promises has been spilt – is there a solution in sight yet? One Wonders.

 

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[1] http://database.dife.gov.bd/factories/details/4/1848?format=html

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Posted in Garment Worker Issues

Bangladesh Apparel Export Dips as an aftershock of political unrest on early 2015

Garment exports declined 11.96 percent year-on-year to $2.21 billion in July, as political crisis during January-March affected orders. The garment sector, which accounts for more than 80 percent of total exports, suffered the biggest fall in nine months.

The last negative numbers recorded by the sector were in September and October 2014, when year-on-year exports fell 2.06 percent and 9.69 percent respectively.

export

The sector also missed the targets set for the last fiscal year, experiencing only 4.06 percent growth and earning $25.50 billion against the target of $26.90 billion, according to Export Promotion Bureau.

Exports in June and July were low because of the prolonged political crisis that affected business in the first three months this year, said Atiqul Islam, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.

Retailers usually place work orders during the period between December and March, but factory owners were unable to secure adequate orders this time due to political tensions.

Movement of goods from Dhaka to Chittagong port was also hampered then. Garment exports also fell short of the monthly target of $2.54 billion for July by 12.78 percent.

The situation was similar for overall export targets too, with the month’s takings of $2.62 billion being 15.65 percent shy of the target. Year-on-year exports fell 11.96 percent.

In July, exports of leather and leather goods fell by 13.29 percent to stand at $94.64 million, jute and jute goods by 8.99 percent to $55.50 million, home textile by 17.82 percent to $48.64 million, and frozen food and live fish by 42 percent to $37.81 million.

The EPB had set out to earn some $3.11 billion in July. The earnings in the same month a year earlier were $2.99 billion.

Source: The Daily Star

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Posted in Garment Worker Issues

The Disturbing Politics On Worker’s Life Contineous In Bangladesh

The Bangladeshi Garment industry brings life to millions of workers and their many million more family members. This life, however, often comes at the exchange of their humanity. This has been the struggle, in its simplest of forms. The rights of the worker to save her/his humanity, and to have a fairness in the process.

The murders of worker activists, the worker riots on highways, fires, accidents, collapses or any other tragedy kept striking the worker. Helping the men and women, nationally and internationally, advocate even more powerfully than before, to forward the agenda of brand accountability and worker rights. It brought in money for a campaign for worker rights (through well connected, politicized, and powerful worker leaders) from the consumerist west; a significant effort of the campaign went pushing brands for money/compensation for workers (and also the finances needed to organize and process such worker beneficiary initiatives). All forces joined hands in Accords and Alliances, and any other name from both local sources or international players. However, still, the lives of workers kept being toyed with, and still remains as such.

The rise in minimum wage with all its controversies and injustices is yet to be fully implemented throughout the country. The Swan Garments workers had to agitate and suffer through continuous struggle for 26 days (including the biggest festival in Bangladesh, amidst struggle, without their wage paid or bonuses received) only to receive one month’s wage and promises of their 3 months worth of salary to be paid. Their struggle continuous indefinitely, as does the struggle of Tuba Group workers, Rana Plaza workers, and workers of many more factories who usually get fired without cause, notices or proper dues cleared.

However, the recent biggest blow to the Bangladeshi Garment Sector is surely the final GSP refusal to Bangladesh by the USTR of USA. While Garment trade will not be directly harmed by this decision, the fears are mostly centered around a possible domino effect this may have on the much prized EU GSP that Bangladesh enjoys and reaps benefit from for its Garment trade.

gspAs it goes with every economic decision made at the pulpit of power, analysts and elites are sitting round tables and discussing its impact of the economy and the greater spheres of life and its improvement. The poor workers are also displayed as the worst effected, as they have always been by the corporate, associations, rich, elite, or the intellectual.

One cannot but fear about its implications on the already suffering workers of Bangladesh, and the upcoming Eid ul Azha (popularly known as the Korbani Eid in Bangladesh). Here comes another day when the whole country with enjoy long holidays with family and friends, while we are used to seeing the garment worker scream out for her days wage.

With Brands eying Africa, and politics rife with selfish objectives to further ones own political, ideological, economical or financial interest over the sad condition of workers, it will certainly take a great drive bring the much prized equity and harmony in the international worker-brand-consumer relationship, which verify now in this modern consumerist era, has become a test of our times on the very soul where we believe our humanity resides in.

May worker rights overcome every distraction from its pure and unsullied mission of uniting working hands to pave way for its bright destiny.

RISE Society.

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Posted in Garment Worker Issues

The Biggest Festival of Bangladesh – Garment Workers Suffer Once More

The suffering of Garment workers in Bangladesh during major national and religious festivals continues throughout the month of fasting and the Eid day (“Eid” is the end of the fasting month and the greatest festival of Bangladesh).

Swan Garment Workers On Their Sit-in-Protest

Swan Garment Workers On Their Sit-in-Protest

On 14 July 2015, just 4 days before the auspicious Eid Festival, news came in that workers of 1372 factories were not paid their due wages – let alone their bonus [1]. Eid means an amazing lot to workers for more than just the traditional importance, but also because this is the only time of the year that they get a few days off from their work in which they can visit their hometown (village) to meet the rest of their family. These workers dream to get their salary and bonus with which they may buy something for their loved ones to bring a smile upon their faces. However, as usual, many of them end up being dismayed. No pain seems bigger and more cruel than the pain of not seeing their family’s faces and failing to bring one good day in their lives.

Along with other factories, workers of Swan Garments were denied of their rights and they took it to the streets of Dhaka in protest. The management called it an “unavoidable situation” due to the death of one of the owners, although, many workers claim that 3 months worth of their wages have not yet been paid by the factory management, bleeding these workers so dry that now many of them hardly manage food on the table – this is the conditions of the those who stitch for the elite though working for some of the most expensive brands in the world.

Although the owner died, worker leaders claim that the owner had USD equivalent of $120 million worth of property which can be liquidated to pay the workers and his bank loans. However, there is no concrete step being taken to ensure the payment of these workers.

The workers out on the streets at times when they should be celebrating like any other normal and deserving human being – drying in the hot summer sun of Dhaka, and getting drenched again by the stormy rains of Bangladesh, their struggle continues without an end.

May the Eid bring blessings to our lives,

RISE Society.

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[1] http://www.bd-pratidin.com/last-page/2015/07/14/93604

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Charges finally pressed against 42 over the Rana Plaza Collapse

Still Searching

Afters more than a couple of years passed by, authorities have finally pressed charges against 42 people over the Rana Plaza factory disaster which took the life of more than 1200 victims, making hundreds orphans and many thousands critically injured with severe mental and physical injuries and little or no compensation.

The building owner and a former ruling party member, Sohel Rana, has been charged with killing all the people and violating the building code.

Still Searching

Still Searching

The CID charged Rana and 40 others for killing of these workers, while a total of 594 people were shown prosecution witnesses in the case while 130 in the other case. Among the accused, 25 people including some government officials were shown fugitive [1].

Among those who have been accused, includes the 5 owners of the factories, Sohel Rana, his father, and other officials who have been involved to allow construction of this building.

RISE.

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[1] http://www.thedailystar.net/country/42-charged-over-rana-plaza-collapse-90901

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Factory Fire in Gazipur – Casualties Uncertain

GAZiPUR-FiRe

Fire rages on as Dignity Textile Mills Limited remains engulfed in flames since yesterday, melting its steel frame, and heating up to such an extent that fire fighters are finding it hard to extinguish this mess.

As per the National database of garment factories in Bangladesh, Dignity Textile Mills Limited had been inspected by the Bangladesh Accord near the end of 2013, and it is also listed in the Accord’s factory list for inspection [1]. The only difference is that the national database shows 835 workers has been employed in this factory, whereas according to the Accord database only 666 workers had been working here [2]. Now, it might be time to settle this number so that it reflects what is true and in favor of workers who risk to loose the most out of this fire.

According to the fire fighters, lack of enough water supply into the structure due to lack of windows or doors is helping to heat up the building which is already made up of a steel structure. Firefighters and onlookers are now actually waiting for the building to collapse.

The fire broke out on the second floor store around 2:15PM during the lunch break when most workers and executives were outside the building, and it reached the fourth floor in a matter of minutes.

Although the cause of the blaze is still uncertain, the locals of the area, other workers, onlookers and even media reporters claim that the factory had 3000 workers working when the fire had spread [3]. Although, most of the workers are expected to have been out eating lunch during this time.

Featured image

Dignity Textile Mills Limited

It is a difficult task to look out of the tragedy here, but if we take a moment to reflect, we will find that not only the factory owners have been ignorant here, but there are a lot more that safety advocates can look into for future catastrophes:

1. The European Accord mentioned in its report some short, medium and long term suggestions to renovate and repair some areas. These included separating the store-rooms of the factory from the main area with fire resistant gates, and taking care of the wiring, as well as keeping the generator room safe. The European Accord did not feel the necessity (as it has felt with many other factories before) to close this factory down until these issues that they pointed have been taken care of. Of course, not to mention the harm that it brings to workers if a factory is closed down for repairs or for not meeting Accord Standards – where the Accord falls short of ensuring worker rights – making even this initiative a controversial and a double-edged sword for workers.

2. The Accord in its report does not mention about lack of enough doors or windows, while this is the chief complain of fire fighters now as they remain perplexed and helpless due to lack of avenues from which they can supply water to cool this inferno down. It is now raising questions among even the common bystander in Gazipur as to how such an expert group of highly paid Westerners who are here to ensure worker interests in safety miss such an obvious thing. Or is it, something that the Bangladeshis and its poor and “less-intelligent” (and thus commercial less significant, and worthy to be exploited) workers are missing something that probably will pop up soon to discredit them for their own chaotic nightmares.

3. The European Accord says that its 666 workers who were working in that factory, the National Database says its 835, the onlookers, families and reporters say its 3000 workers. Who should people believe? It is very important, because if there are less workers than the owners need to pay less for compensation (i.e. if they choose to pay anything at all), and if there are more, then they pay more. It has previously been voiced by RISE and many others that the numbers reflected on the Accord lists are not always accurate and reflect the buyer/factory owner’s version more than the reality, however, now is the time to reflect on the real answer to this question.

It must be noted that factory owners intentionally downsize the actual number of workers in a factory due to a number of factors, starting from legal working hours to contracts, benefits, overtimes and labor court matters etc. (is it a topic where a book can be written), but for organizations, national administrations and journalists/researchers, it is important to have one correct list to protect the interest of workers in situations like these.

While the news is still not behind us, the hope to hear something better than worse is also uncertain.

With Uncertainty and Solidarity,

RISE.

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[1] http://database.dife.gov.bd/factories/details/4/2258-dignity-textile-mills-ltd?format=html

[2] http://bangladeshaccord.org/wp-content/uploads/Accord-Public-Disclosure-Report-1-May-2015.pdf

[3] http://bdnews24.com/bangladesh/2015/05/31/gazipur-clothing-factory-fire-is-still-burning

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Earthquakes Shake Vulnerable Garment Factories

The Recent tremors felt by Bangladesh following the earthquakes in Nepal and North and Northeastern India has left the capital city Dhaka in the grip of fear and uncertainty. Among all fears and uncertainty, the vulnerable workers of garment factories are worst affected, fearing for their lives on a month when they remember the loss of thousands of their fellow workers in the infamous Rana Plaza Tragedy.

After cracks were spotted at the factories

After cracks were spotted at the factories

More than 200 workers of at least 15 garment factories at Savar have been injured while trying to flee their factories after feeling the jolts on Sunday’s earthquake. The injured workers have been admitted to the local clinics and hospitals, undergoing treatment.

Moreover, workers complained that some of the factories which claim to be “compliant” has developed cracks on them during the earthquakes, and the owners of these factories (Glory Fashions and Madonna Fahions, Banani, Shoinik Club) are pushing workers into their buildings to resume work. Workers fear that a repetition of 2013’s Rana Plaza incident is not unlikely if adequate checks are not made over the safety of these buildings after these recent tremors across the country.

Many factories have been going through the same situation where cracks have developed which were previously not there before these tremors. With thousands of machines and huge generators operating to keep production going, it is more important than ever to inspect these factories again in the changed circumstances to see if they are in order and can keep production on in safe conditions.
RISE Society.
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Posted in Garment Worker Issues
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