Mark April 24 as national mourning day: rights activists
Labour leaders yesterday urged the government to mark April 24 as a national mourning day to pay respects to those who died in the Rana Plaza tragedy last year.
All the garment units should also remain shut on the day, they said on the eve of the first anniversary of the nation's deadliest industrial disaster that killed more than 1,100 workers.
Labour leaders and other discussants at a seminar also demanded safe workplaces at garment factories, a database system for the workers, and rehabilitation and compensation for the workers of Rana Plaza.
Bangladesh Labour Rights Forum organised the seminar on 'One Year of Rana Plaza Tragedy: Works of Garment Labours, Safety, Compensation and Today's Reality' at the National Press Club in Dhaka.
“April 24 must be declared a national mourning day,” said Abul Hossain, convener of Bangladesh Labour Rights Forum.
Presenting a keynote paper at the seminar, he said the owners' tendency to make hefty profits within the shortest possible time has often affected factory maintenance and worker safety.
Although foreign buyers have vowed to increase product prices on the back of a hike in worker salaries, they are yet to offer higher prices for Bangladeshi clothing, he said.
“We are requesting the international buyers to fulfil their commitments by increasing the prices.”
It is a good sign that 120 garment factories have already allowed trade unionism following amendments to the labour law last year, he said.
Labour Leader Rafiqul Islam Sujon also said all garment factories would have to be kept closed on April 24 every year. “No garment worker will work on the day,” said Sujon, president of Bangladesh Garment and Industry Workers Federation.
Shahin, who used to work at a factory in Rana Plaza, said he is yet to get any compensation. “I am even finding it hard to find work elsewhere as I was a worker at Rana Plaza.”
Binayak Sen, research director of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, said it is necessary to know which factory is under what risk. “No such survey has been done to know the risks.”
“If it is not possible to be compliant fully, at least worker safety must be ensured,” he said. The government should make budgetary allocations and provide credit on simple terms to the owners to modernise their factories, he added.
Pratima Pal Majumder, an economist, said 74 percent of the workers of Rana Plaza are yet to get jobs in other factories. “Special steps should be taken to employ them.”
Omana George, programme coordinator of Asian Monitor Resource Centre, said workers' rights and the condition of the workplace seems to be the same as always.
“Laws and rights are being compromised, and the situation is the same in India, Pakistan and China,” she said, adding that a lack of infrastructure is a hurdle to enforcing laws.
Shirin Akhter, a lawmaker, said the government, garment owners, trade unions and international buyers must take equal responsibility to ensure safe workplaces and workers' rights.