Friday, April 26, 2013

OTTAWA ― The Canadian Labour Congress deplores the preventable deaths and injuries that have occurred as a result of a tragic factory collapse near Dhaka, Bangladesh, says CLC President Ken Georgetti.

More than 305 workers lost their lives in the factory collapse and 2,445 more have been injured or permanently disabled. These workers made clothing for a Bangladeshi company whose clients include Joe Fresh, a subsidiary of the Canadian-owned Loblaws.

Georgetti says that safety audit measures were obviously lacking or not enforced by the Bangladeshi company involved in the latest tragedy. “Unfortunately, Canada is visibly absent from international discussions to reform current social auditing systems, and to impose accountable reporting standards on companies such as Loblaws, which buy products from other countries.”

Georgetti says that the Canadian government has remained silent about previous labour violations in Bangladesh, and is thus complicit in the recent tragic event. Rather, Canada has chosen to promote a five-fold increase of merchandise imports from Bangladesh since 2005, now valued at more $1.6 billion per year.

“There was no trade union in any of the four companies involved in the Bangladeshi factory,” Georgetti says, “so workers had no means available to protect their own safety. They felt powerless to refuse company orders to re-enter the site after an initial evacuation, despite obvious signs of danger.”

Bangladesh has ratified most International Labour Organization (ILO) core labour Conventions, but this year’s ILO report is a damning indictment of how poor enforcement of labour laws can give rise to accidents, such as the one near Dhaka.

Georgetti says, “The CLC’s experience with workplace accidents in Canada leads us to believe that such events can be prevented only when joint workplace, union-employer committees have the power to lend oversight on production and where laws are adequately enforced. It is unconscionable to deprive workers of such basic protections.  

“We send our condolences to the victims, families and communities involved,” Georgetti says. “We also call on the Canadian government to work with the international community and social partners in developing a strong and enforceable system of workplace health and safety, which which would have prevented this from happening. Failing compliance on these matters, Canada should refuse trade with Bangladesh, a country that openly flaunts the enforcement of labour standards in a way that allows such events to occur.” 

The Canadian Labour Congress, the national voice of the labour movement, represents 3.3 million Canadian workers. The CLC brings together Canada’s national and international unions along with the provincial and territorial federations of labour and 130 district labour councils. Web site:  Follow us on Twitter @CanadianLabour