Bangladesh workers rally for safety at work! – millions facing deadly health risks

Bangladesh workers’ rally and demonstration in Dhaka on Monday to remember those who suffered from work-related deaths

Remembering dead and injured workers on Sunday April 28, food and agricultural unions in Bangladesh demonstrated demanding protection of workers’ health and safety as a fundamental right.

On April 28, the IUF Food and Beverage Workers Council-Bangladesh, Bangladesh Agricultural Farm Workers Federation, and National Women Farmers & Workers Association held a rally and demonstration in the capital Dhaka to remember those who suffered from work-related deaths, injury and illness, including the unreported deaths of unknown workers.

The unions called for action to ensure the fundamental right to health and safety is fully realised for all food, farm and agricultural workers in both the formal and informal sectors.

One minute’s silence was held in memory of workers killed at work.

The unions stated: ‘International Workers Memorial Day-2023 has been marked to demand comprehensive measures to protect workers ensuring their fundamental occupational health and safety rights guaranteed in International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No.155.

‘Today, April 28, to mark International Workers’ Memorial Day-2024, IUF Food and Beverage Workers Council-Bangladesh, Bangladesh Agricultural Farm Workers Federation and National Women Farmers & Workers Association have jointly organised a workers rally and demonstration in front of the National Press Club, Dhaka.

‘From the demonstration one minute’s silence was also observed in memory of the known and unknown workers killed and injured at work.’

The rally called for comprehensive action to ensure workers fundamental right to health and safety guaranteed by ILO Convention 155 for the protection of workers that includes setting up tripartite monitoring committee, real risk management with active participation of workers representation, and enacting ILO Convention 155 implementation law etc.

In the rally, the workers leaders from various unions complained that the employers’ priority is to make more profit from hazardous unsafe work than on saving lives at work.

Work-related injuries, illness, disease and deaths grows as most workplaces continue to have unsafe and dangerous environments, with increasing precarious work arrangements and no proper representation for workers.

Speakers also said that apart from industrial workers, millions of agricultural workers, self-employed workers and small and marginal farmers are facing deadly health risks due to extreme weather caused by climate change.

Work-related deaths, injury or illness of these great number of unrecognised workforces in the informal economy in most cases remain hidden and are not known.

ILO C.155 recognises that a safe and healthy working environment is a fundamental right of workers and it is the employer’s obligation to ensure a safe workplace whereas the government’s responsibility is to monitor whether the employer has ensured safety for all workers.

The rally reaffirmed its commitment to continue calling for an end to the killing of workers at workplaces, and demanded strict punishment for employers who fail to provide a safe working environment.

Among other union and organisation leaders, President of NEU Md. Abdul Mannan, IUF Asia Pacific National officer Nasrin Sultana, Prominent labour leader Abul Hossain, General Secretary of BAFLF union Golam Sorowor, President of NEFA Leela Khanom, President of PvM EU Md. Kamrul Hasan, General Secretary of Coca-Cola Employees Union Md. Mokhleshur Rahman Khokan, Joint General Secretary of SMC EL Union Md. Al Amin Imran, President of BRRI Sramik Samiti, Md. Rahim Uddin spoke at the rally.

Meanwhile, a rally was held last Tuesday 23rd April to mark the Rana Plaza anniversary and to demand: ‘MEPs must support due diligence today!’

A joint statement was issued by industriAll Europe, IndustriALL Global Union, UNI Europa and UNI Global Union on the anniversary of Rana Plaza.

‘Today, marks the anniversary of the 2013 industrial homicide that killed more than 1,100 people and injured thousands more, as the Rana Plaza building collapsed onto garment workers in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

‘This year, the anniversary coincides with the final vote in the European Parliament on the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive, which, if adopted, would make the respect of environmental standards, human rights including workers’ rights mandatory along global value chains.

‘To deliver this due diligence effectively, there is growing interest in binding agreements, out of increasing recognition that voluntary social auditing is a failed mechanism, both in terms of protecting workers’ rights and reducing risk to multinational buyer brands and their investors.’

Judith Kirton-Darling, General Secretary of industriAll European Trade Union said: ‘Today, MEPs have a chance to make a real positive change to workers’ lives, including those in the international textiles sector, which unfortunately continues to be infamous for the abuse of workers’ rights.

‘All workers deserve to work in safe environments with decent conditions and we must do all that we can to prevent another disaster like Rana Plaza.

‘We need strong European Union rules on due diligence to hold companies accountable for their supply chains wherever they are.’

The Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive will require EU and non-EU companies with a minimum turnover of 450 million euros in the EU to conduct human rights and environmental due diligence across their value chains.

Oliver Roethig, UNI Europa Regional Secretary, said: ‘The CSDDD will make essential advancements in ensuring that a company can no longer unilaterally decide its approach to human rights due diligence.

‘Instead, it will be obligatory to meaningfully involve trade unions through the due diligence process.

‘As the directive comes into force, these provisions will ensure that the new requirements are a substantive step forward from the failed approaches of corporate social responsibility.’

Set up in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse by global unions, the legally binding International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry which, to date, has been signed by over 200 of the world’s biggest brands and fashion retailers.

It has resulted in more than 56,000 independent inspections in supplier factories, over 140,000 safety issues have been fixed and two million workers have received health and safety training. The Accord is now working to save lives in Pakistan.

IndustriALL Global Union general secretary Atle Høie said: ‘While we are proud of the work of the Accord we call on more international action to hold textile brands to account. If adopted, the EU directive will change the lives of millions of workers for the better.

‘The irony that the final vote falls on the same day as the Rana Plaza anniversary is not lost and textile workers in Bangladesh call on the European Parliament today to support the directive and hold international textile brands to account.’

Christy Hoffman, UNI Global Union General Secretary, said: ‘Just as UNI and IndustriALL made history when we negotiated the Accord 11 years ago, the MEPs voting today have a chance to change the landscape of supply chain responsibility across the world.

‘The Accord shows the difference unions and companies can make when we make binding rules with a sectoral impact.

‘The CSDDD moves supply chain accountability to a new level and is a huge step towards ensuring that “Rana Plaza – Never Again” is more than a slogan.’