URGENT action is needed to tackle widespread violence against garment workers in Bangladesh, the TUC said yesterday.
Workers in newly registered unions have been attacked by bullying bosses for speaking out about safety and pay in more than 45 factories, according to the International Trade Union Confederation.
More than 1,100 workers died when the Rana Plaza building housing five factories collapsed in the Savar district of Dhaka two years ago.
Amirul Haque Amin, president of the National Garment Workers Federation in Bangladesh spoke at a sit-in demonstration in front of the National Press Club in Dhaka to mark the second anniversary yesterday. He called for “the worst industrial disaster of 21st century in the world” to be the last.
Hundreds of children lost a parent or even both in the collapse and remain in desperate poverty. Those who died were mainly young women. Many of the garments they made were destined for Western high-street stores, including H&M, Gap and Benetton.
In the aftermath of the disaster, pledges were made, but about £4 million is still needed to plug the gap for £20m in compensation payments. As of this month, the amount received by the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund totals just £8.5m.
Written pledges for funds that have yet to be received come to £1.5m, including more than £700,000 promised by Benetton, according to ITUC.
Bangladesh’s government has also failed to reform labour laws, according to the TUC, which has donated £16,000 to the Rana Plaza Fund. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Two years after 1,129 workers died in the Rana Plaza factory collapse, not enough has been done to make sure that such terrible events never happen again.
“Workers must be able to join a union without fear of attack, and companies must accept their moral duty to provide compensation to all workers harmed in their global supply chains.”
GMB international officer Bert Schouwenburg endorsed a call made by Mr Amin that companies yet to pay in to the compensation fund must do so without delay.
He said that labour standards should be improved, trade union rights be given, oppression stop and a living wage be paid to workers.