After the Savar factory tragedy


There is still no exact figure of how many people were in the building when the Rana Plaza collapsed in the Dhaka suburb of Savar on Wednesday, 24 April but different estimates suggest that the figure was over 5000.

As of Sunday, the Combined Rescue team started using heavy equipment as there is little or no possibility of finding any more survivors.

Even after 100 hours, a worker from one of the garment factories, a Mr Shajahan, was rescued alive. However, I do not know if any more dead bodies will be found in the building at the last moment.

It is feared that as many as 1000 people are still missing.

One of Bangladesh’s leading English-language daily newspapers, the New Age, reports that the final number might even be as high as 1050 people. Many families and friends are waiting for news of their loved ones.

The latest figure has reached 397 but in one newspaper the death toll had crossed 400. I have not been able to watch the TV coverage of the rescue operation as I find it intolerable to see the pain and sufferings of human beings forced into such inhuman conditions.

In the meantime, several factory bosses and Rana Plaza owner Mohammed Sohel Rana have been arrested. Workers have been demonstrating since the building fell but various groups, such as students and teachers, have also staged demonstrations in front of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers & Exporters Association office.

Speaking to activists in Savar just now, I have come to know that relatives of missing people are staging demonstrations there too.

The basic problems are this:

1. Employers are more powerful than the administration, but they do not care about the welfare of their workers

2. Except for a few, all workplaces in Bangladesh are unsafe

3. Health and safety laws are not enforced

4. Governor inspectors never inspect the factories.

5. Building codes are ignored

6. Inadequate law to punish the employers and building owners

7. No or few trade unions both government and employers do not want trade unions

It is likely that the government and employers will forget everything in a few days’ time. They will forget their commitments to ensure safer workplaces, amendments to the law, or to allow trade unions to be formed or for collective bargaining to take place as only the trade unions can ensure safe work places.

At present, the question of safety in the workplace is only an issue for garment workers. Everyone from vice-chancellors at universities to judges and even domestic workers are concerned about workplace safety.

We all need to work together. So once again, we appeal to everyone to work together to save our workers. I sincerely thank the ILO, ITUC, ITUC-AP, IndustriALL and all other GUFs and trade unions from around the world who expressed their solidarity and oneness with us. Thank you all.