28th April 2013
The Government of Peoples’ Republic of Bangladesh
The Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers And Exporters Association
The Multinational Companies conducting businesses in Bangladesh
Subject: Demand For Reform In The Garments Industry After Hundreds Killed In Building Collapse In Savar, Bangladesh
It is with extreme agony and distress that we read about the tragic deaths of so many poor, innocent workers caused by the collapse of the Rana Plaza at Savar, Bangladesh. To date three hundred and fifty workers have been killed and more than a thousand injured in this latest disaster to hit the garments industry. The victims are mostly poor women with young children.
Such disasters are inevitable and unsurprising. It is as if such disasters are the necessary price to pay for doing business in Bangladesh. We demand that this intolerable situation must end.
The building was built recently with total disregard for any building standards by a leader of the ruling Awami League. There are many such buildings all over the country, built and operated by members of the ruling and opposition parties.
There are no safety standards in most of the garment industry buildings in Bangladesh. Fires break out quite regularly and only when scores of people perish do such tragedies become news. Working conditions are simply appalling. A girl was rescued from the collapsed building after 45 hours when her trapped hand was cut free with a hacksaw. She works for sixty hours each week for less than £40 a month. Her story is a typical one.
Some companies and individuals do conduct themselves responsibly. But they are too few in number to make any real difference. Multinational companies like Primark, Bonmarche, Matalan, Wal-Mart and so forth who do business with Bangladeshi suppliers of garments and other products must bear some responsibilities too for the well-being of these poor innocent workers - quite often victims - in Bangladesh. The businesses of the multinational companies keep millions of workers in the country alive. Most of the profits go into the pockets of unscrupulous and corrupt businessmen and political leaders. Unless multinational companies exert pressure and force minimum standards of safety and ethics on these businesses, workers will suffer perennial agony, exploitation and quite often deadly disasters.
We urge Western multinational companies to enforce international best practice and ethical standards on Bangladeshi suppliers so as to alleviate the untold sufferings and inhuman exploitation of the working people of Bangladesh.
The trade association in Bangladesh cannot continue to ignore workers’ rights. It must stop colluding with government to maintain the status quo. We urge the association to set standards and enforce them. The association must promote ethical business practice. If not then we will challenge the association in industry forums abroad.
The governments of Bangladesh must stop ignoring appalling standards in the garments industry just to benefit export earnings and party operatives. Workers deserve basic standards of health and safety, freedom from political exploitation and free access to the law to defend their rights. We demand that the government forces reform upon the garments industry.
We urge all parties concerned to work together and individually to promote international standards and best practice within the garments industry of Bangladesh.
Finally, we demand proper financial compensation for all victims of this disaster, paid for by the multinational companies involved, the trade association and the government.
1. Dr. Anisur Rahman, CRadP FNucI, VFJ Manchester, UK
2. Mr. Ezajur Rahman, Convenor, Voice For Justice, Kuwait
3. Mr. Colin Short, VFJ London, UK
4. Dr. Naushin H. Husain, VFJ Plymouth, UK
5. Syed Tareq Ahmed, VFJ Dhaka, Bangladesh
6. Mr. Luthfur Rahman Choudhury, VFJ Convenor, Bangladesh.
7. Mr. Hasan Mahmud, VFJ Convenor, Toronto, Canada
8. Ms. Dilruba Z. Ara, VFJ Convenor, Lunde, Sweden
9. Ms. Michelle Rowe, VFJ Northern Territory, Australia
10. Ms. Shaheen Ali, VFJ Toronto, Canada
11. Mr. Enam Choudhury, Convenor, Voice for Justice, Stockholm, Sweden
12. Mr. Sadiqur Rahman, Voice For Justice Joint Convenor, London, UK
13. Mr. Uchchall Salique, VFJ Essex, UK
14. Mr. Gulzar Ahmed, Voice For Justice, Vienna, Austria
15. Syed Mahmud Husain, Voice For Justice, Singapore
16. Dr. Abdur Rahman, Voice for Justice, Limerick, Ireland
17. Cllr. Ohid Ahmad, Deputy Mayor, Tower Hamlets, UK
18. Mr. Abdul Latif JP, Convenor Voice For Justice, Birmingham, UK
19 Mr. Idu Mia, Voice For Justice, Manchester, UK
20. Dr. Jasmine Tickle, Voice For Justice, Cambridge, UK
21. Ms. Sandra Taylor, VFJ London, UK
22. Dr. Taj Hashmi, VFJ Convenor, Tennessee, USA
23. Mr. Aliar Hossain, VFJ London, UK
24. Prince Sadiq Choudhury, VFJ Northampton, UK
25. Mr Mr. Ellis Uddin, VFJ Singapore
26. Mr Wohidul Islam, VFJ Qatar
27. Mr Rezaul Karim, VFJ Hongkong
28. Mr Yusuf Khan, VFJ Oman
29. Mr. Kamal Reza, VFJ Sydney, Australia
30. Mr. Mia Monirul Alam, VFJ Folkestone, Kent, UK
31. Ms. Judy Mcdonough, VFJ Glenwood, Minnesota, USA
32. Mr. K. R. Alam, VFJ Dhaka, Bangladesh
33. Mrs. Zahanara Rahman, VFJ Southgate, London, UK
34. Mr. Ahmad Abdullah, VFJ Toronto, Canada
35. Mr. Bashir Ahmed, British Bangladesh Chambers, VFJ London, UK
36. Dr. Adeeb Husain, VFJ Romford, Essex, UK
37. Dr. Shamsul Islam Choudhury, VFJ Chicago, USA
38. Mrs. Tarefa Ahmad, VFJ Hertfordshire, UK
39. Ms. Runi Khan, VFJ London, UK
40. Dr. Shimeen H. Husain, VFJ Hampshire, UK
41. Dr. Hasan Zillur Rahim, Convenor, VFJ, San Jose, USA
42. Dr. Hasanat Husain MBE, Convener, Voice for Justice World Forum
On behalf of Voice For Justice World Forum