Workplace Health and Safety

Rana Plaza: Canadian unions calling for safer work conditions

April 21, 2016

In February 2016 a Canadian trade union delegation visited Bangladesh. The delegation included representatives from the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), Unifor, and the United Steelworkers (USW). On this third anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse, Canadian unions have issued the following joint statement:

On April 24, 2013, the Rana Plaza garment factory collapsed, killing 1,100 workers and injuring thousands more.

On this grim anniversary of Bangladesh’s deadliest garment industry disaster, Canadian trade unions are calling for continued vigilance to ensure that Bangladesh’s garment workers are treated fairly and do not need to continue to risk their lives to earn a living.

While most Bangladesh garment factories have now been inspected for building, fire and electrical safety, the building repairs and corrective actions required by inspectors are proceeding far too slowly. Bangladesh garment factories are still not safe. We know from media reports that fires are still occurring in Bangladesh factories supplying international brands. The time for action is long overdue.

Canadians want to purchase clothing that is made in safe factories by workers who are treated fairly. Retailers and brands have a responsibility to contribute to the required safety upgrades and to publicly report on the conditions in factories they source from.

Brands and governments must further assist in building a sustainable industry into the future, which will only be possible if workers’ rights are fully respected. The majority of supply chain workers are trapped in insecure and often unsafe jobs with poverty wages and long hours. According to the ITUC, 80 per cent of world trade and 60 per cent of global production are now captured by the supply chains of multinational companies.

In Bangladesh, 80 per cent of garment workers are women, earning an average monthly minimum wage which, according to the Asia Floor Wage Alliance, accounts for only 19 per cent of a family’s basic needs.

On this sombre day, Canadian unions stand in solidarity with the garment workers of Bangladesh. We call on the Government of Canada to maintain its commitment to a truly sustainable and safe garment sector. Canadians must be assured that more than $1 billion in annual clothing imports from Bangladesh are made by workers who are treated decently and work in safe conditions.

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