We Demand a Safe Workplace!

Garment Workers’ Procession Demanding a Safe Workplace
and Trade Union Rights in the Garment Industry

Statement by National Garment Workers Federation

Garment workers yesterday, January 14, 2013, brought out a procession in Dhaka city demanding assurance for a safe workplace and trade union rights in the garment industry in Bangladesh. Over 100 garment workers, mostly women, took part in the procession organized by the National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF). The workers, during the procession, carried placards and festoons with different demands, including “safe workplace” and “trade union rights.” The procession began from in front of the National Press Club and concluded at the Paltan Crossing after parading High Court and Topkhana Road.

A short rally was held in front of the National Press Club in Dhaka city before the procession. NGWF President Amirul Haque Amin presided over the rally that was addressed by NGWF General Secretary Ms Safia Parveen and Central leaders Md Faruq Khan, Ms Sultana Akter, Ms Jesmin Akter, Md Kabir Hossain, Ms Nazneen Akter and Md Rafiq, among others.

The speakers said that 55 serious factory fires have taken place in the Bangladesh Garment sector since 1990. In these fires, 566 garment workers were killed while several thousand were injured—some of them became permanently disabled physically. In addition, 64 garment workers were killed in the Spectrum Garments factory collapse in 2005. But, a safe workplace and health and safety regulations for garment workers were not ensured until now.

The speakers demanded to establish a safe workplace in the Garment industry for the workers. They stressed the need for a joint initiative of the factory owners, government, buyers and trade union organizations in this regard.

Expressing resentment, the speakers said, “A ‘Memorandum of Understanding on Health and Safety’ was prepared two years back at a workshop organized jointly by BGMEA [Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association] and trade union organizations. The workshop was attended by the representatives of the government and buyers. It was decided, at the workshop, that all buyers (sourcing companies) shall sign the “Memorandum of Understanding on Health and Safety.” But until now, no buyers other than PVH and TCHIBO signed this document. It is imperative for all buyers to sign this document and ensure health and safety of the garment workers in Bangladesh.

Expressing anger, the speakers said, “Formation of trade union organizations are allowed in the garment sector although trade union rights are a basic right of the workers. Unrestricted trade union rights should be given immediately in the Garment sector.”

Press Secretary, National Garment Workers Federation, January 15, 2013

National Garment Workers Federation

Central Office: 31 / F Topkhana Road. Dhaka-1000

Mailing : G.P.O. Box 864, Dhaka, Bangladesh