Amidst widespread public condemnation surrounding the consecutive major factory disasters in Bangladesh since last year, the nation went into protests and demonstrations on Mayday 2013.
Since the Spectrum tragedy back in 2005, numerous small scale factory disasters have rattled the workers and their families, killing hundreds already and culminating in two of the most gruesome factory tragedies of industrial – the Tazreen Factory Inferno (November, 2012) and the Savar Factory Collapse (April, 2013), killing together several hundreds and amputating thousands for life.
The need today seem to start from better government policies, implementation of such policies, public resistance against having factories in residential areas, worker resistance to inhuman treatment, manufacturer’s awareness to ensure sustainability of their profits by ensuring a balanced atmosphere among all stake holders rather than a volatile and unstable one, and most importantly it is the top of the pyramid – the sourcing Brands – which need to come forward to put pressure on the entire system for a positive change.
The RISE Society, along with others, took to the streets on Mayday 2013 asking the brands to sign the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement in order to play their part in a wholesome way to protect the poorest members of their family – the workers in the factories.
Across Bangladesh there still remains hundreds of clustered factories in buildings not meant to hold such a huge number of workforce and such heavy machines in the first place. The vibration created by the machines contribute in a major way to possible disasters, while small padlocked fire exits only act as a mockery in the name of safety.
Among the rubble were some fortunate ladies who survived, some of them were pregnant and gave birth inside the rubble. To some it might signify a sign of life among scores of death, however take a closer look and it will come to you that these registered factories supplying for some of the biggest fashion brands of the world did not give maternity leaves to their women workers (80% of the garment factory workforce in Bangladesh).
Such rampant disregard and ignorance to local labor laws, building laws and international conventions of good work and sourcing practice, makes this critical industry get into unstable grounds which cannot be good for anybody. If only a little bit of the “greed” could be sacrificed, the garment sector of Bangladesh and the Fashion Industry which sits at the peak of the pyramid can all enjoy a sustainable and healthy environment to work ahead.
It makes us wonder, “How many disasters, dead bodies, and destroyed families will it take for the powerful decision makers at the top to understand that without them coming forward the change cannot come.”
The minimum wage of the Garment Workers need to be pushed above 3000, referring to the Living Wage and Asia Floor Wage for factory workers. The buyers should pay more, and even if they do the change might not come if they do not sit with the stakeholders, researchers and activists in an effort to bring more accountability and change into their system of working.
We will follow our next blog post with a topic regarding the death count of the workers in the Savar Tragedy.
Till then, spread the word! The power is yours!