Bangladesh Workers Solidarity Network

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Bangladesh Workers Solidarity Network Newsletter, Vol. 1, No. 2 (November 23, 2013)

 

Tazreen Fire – One year later.

We mark one year since the fire that killed over a hundred people in a locked garments factory building “Tazreen” in Dhaka, Bangladesh. 

Workers’  labor in Bangladesh has contributed immensely to the wealth of the factory owners, the multi-national retailers in the west, and associated governments east and west. Yet the Tazreen fire of Nov 24-25, 2012 is neither the first nor the last “accident” in a garments factory.  

Lack of unions and alternate employment opportunities all contribute to the disempowerment of the individual worker and create the corresponding social climate where it is acceptable to consider workers as less than citizens and their lives expendable.

Against this betrayal of humanity, there has been unprecedented cohesiveness within the working class in Bangladesh and an outpouring of moral support the world over. Small but significant gains have been achieved by workers materially and politically.

In marking the one year passage since the Tazreen Fire, we of the Bangladesh Workers Solidarity Network re-affirm our commitment to workers in Bangladesh and the world over in the common struggle for justice and dignity. 

 

Email Update from Saydia in Dhaka

Date: Fri, 8 Nov 2013 07:44:51 +0600
Subject: Brief update on Sumaya's health
From:  Saydia Gulrukh in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Beloved Friends and Comrades

I hope you all are in good health and enduring struggles wherever you are.

I haven't been able to stay in touch with you more regularly. We are working on a separate writ-petition seeking the government and BGMEA to make the list of missing, injured and deceased workers of Rana Plaza public. The work of putting the petition together kept us on our toes. I am sorry about my prolonged silence.

Writing this brief update is not easy for us. Sumaya was released from the hospital on October 21st after completion of her first round of radiation therapy. Sadly, now she is almost blind. Sumaya does not have the same excruciating pain, but she is suffering. Today, her mother organized a milad-mehfil (a prayer meet), so her soul may be free from this misery soon. 

Keep her in your thoughts & prayers and join us in Sumaya's fight to bring the factory owners to justice

love and solidarity

Saydia 

Factory Inspections Begin

As of November 8, 2013, factory inspections under the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, signed by at least 80 international retailers have started on a test basis.  The alternate North American Alliance (NAA), a platform of 22 North American retailers, and the Bangladesh Labor and employment ministry will inspect another 500 and 2,000 respectively.

As reported by Guardian on November 18, Walmart reports that 10 of about 75 of its Bangladesh garment factories failed safety checks in audits so far and, “factories that failed audits have since made improvements”.

Minimum Wage Increase

After months of massive street demonstrations participated by 50 thousand to 200 thousand workers, strikes in several hundred factories,  attacks by police and militia with bullets and tear gas, lockouts by the factory owners etc, the Bangladesh Government’s minimum wage recommendation of $67/month was announced in November 14, 2013. The prior minimum wage was $40/month.

The $100/month demand of the workers’ equates the cost of food needed to maintain a diet of 2,300 calories.  It does not take into account cost of rent, school expenses for children, health expenses etc. The living wage is over $200/month.

Great hurdles remain in the betterment of workers’ conditions.  From past experience we know that existing bonus amounts are liable to be incorporated in the minimum wage, workers may be re-assigned to a lower grade and, perhaps most critically, increases in wages are rapidly met by increased rent of the slums where workers live, etc.  Thus the effort to raise workers’ conditions will demand long term vigilance and support from all concerned.


Workers Rally in Dhaka, Bangladesh September 21, 2013 ( AFP Photo/ Mujnir Uz Zaman)