Bangladesh garment workers voice safety fears

Factory employees speak to Al Jazeera about their concern for their own lives after latest incident to hit industry.

bangladesh building collapse
More than 200 people, including many garment workers, died when a building collapsed in Dhaka [AFP]

The collapse of the Rana Plaza on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh, shocked the country and lead the government to declare a national day of mourning.

Rescue teams are still working their way through the rubble of what used to be an eight-storey building, pulling out survivors and recovering the bodies of those less fortunate.

Several garment factories were located in the complex, and as reports emerge that managers ignored warnings to evacuate the buildings, anger is growing around the poor safety standards suffered by textile workers.

Al Jazeera spoke to garment workers in Bangladesh about their grief and concerns for their own safety.

Asma Begum, 22, garment worker

“We are feeling shock and pain.

“We want to protect our colleagues, our brothers and sisters.

“Buildings should be made safer than they have been in the past, but this is not being done.” 

Dipak Barua, garment worker

“If owners and workers both commit to following the Labour Act 2006, everyone would be happy and able to work with safety and security.

“The Cabinet on Monday approved in principle a draft proposal for amendment to the ‘Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006’, aiming to ensure the welfare of workers through various measures and thus uphold their rights.”

Nilu Chowdhury, 36, garment worker

“Those workers went into their office to work.

“What happened to them can never be changed.

“We are afraid of working now, even though we know our factory is very safe and secure.”

Pradip Chowdhury, 28, garment worker

“We want assurances from the BGMEA [Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association] that we will get proper security and protection for each and every workers’ life.”
S K Helal, 32, garment worker

“I have worked in several garment factories over the past nine years. This is a big incident and very shocking.

“It is a black day for our history.

“All garment workers and their families live in a high-risk way and should be aware of their human rights.

“The owner is certainly liable in this tragedy.”

Shampa Akhter, 20, garment worker

“Newspapers said Mohammad Asaduzzaman, in charge of the area’s police station, said factory owners appeared to have ignored a warning not to allow their workers into the building after a crack was detected in the block on Tuesday.

“A bank based in the block sent its staff home on Tuesday fearful of a collapse.

“So we do believe the factory owners just violated the risk assessment.” 

Soma, 23, garment worker

“I lost my father in my early age and four people depended on me.

“I can’t imagine what would happen to them if anything happens to me like the incidents that are happening to many other garment workers.”

Sritikona Das, 53, clothing factory production manager

“In November 2012, 112 workers died in a blaze at a factory in a nearby suburb, putting a spotlight on global retailers that source clothes from Bangladesh.

“We don’t know why some of the owners don’t seem to think workers are humans.

“I’m fortunate that my boss is exceptionally kind to me and the employees.” 

Source: Al Jazeera

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