Promises and apologies always follow these disasters, but there is no real commitment to fix the problem. It's about greed, plain and simple." — Larry Brown, NUPGE President
Brussels (14 Sept. 2016) — The tragic deaths of at least 30 workers and injuries to many more in Saturday's fire at the Tampoco Foil factory in Bangladesh shows the callous disregard of the Bangladesh government for workers' safety, and the failure of multinational companies doing business with the factory to take responsibility for the lives of workers in their supply chains, says the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) in a press release.
Factory owners who are suppressing workers' rights are often goverment decision makers
The workers died when a boiler exploded in the factory building, an old structure to which extra floors had been added, spreading fire and eventually causing the building to collapse. The cramped building, full of flammable materials, was entirely unsuitable for a factory, and according to information received by the ITUC, had only one working exit.
Factory owner Syed Mokbul Hussain, a former member of parliament, is being sued by the parents of one of the deceased, for culpable homicide. More than half the members of Bangladesh's parliament have business interests, many of them are factory owners. Requests by factory workers in Bangladesh to register their trade unions are routinely ignored by the government; thus, workers have been able to organise in only a tiny percentage of factories. Major multinational companies, including British American Tobacco, Mondelez and Nestle have been publicly named as using the factory in their supply chains.
Government and brand name companies must share responsibility for deaths
Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said in the release, "These global brands all claim to have strict supplier standards to protect workers from just this kind of tragedy. When companies make bogus claims to regulators and shareholders there are real sanctions, but when it comes to protecting workers' lives there are no legal consequences. There is no substitute for the rule of law; however, even the most basic right for workers to form unions to protect their rights and safety is routinely suppressed by the Bangladesh government. Yet again, the need for legal accountability and compliance across global supply chains is evident and we call on governments, starting with the G20, to make this a reality as a matter of urgency."
Continue fighting for labour rights around the world
"This is yet another example of where profits are put before the rights of working people," said Larry Brown, President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE). "Promises and apologies always follow these disasters, but there is no real commitment to fix the problem. Companies want products as cheap as they can get so they can sell them at a much higher price. It's about greed, plain and simple."
"We continue our fight for labour rights, not only for Canadian workers but for workers around the world. Going to work should not be a death sentence," Brown said.
The ITUC represents 180 million workers in 162 countries and territories and has 333 national affiliates. NUPGE is a member union.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE