Protests a year after Bangladesh disaster

2014-04-24 18:06
(Munir Uz Zaman, AFP)

(Munir Uz Zaman, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Savar - Thousands of Bangladeshis held emotional and violent protests on the one-year anniversary of the world's worst garment factory disaster, as Western retailers faced pressure to hike aid for victims of the accident that cost 1 138 lives.

Angry victims, some wearing funeral shrouds, staged demonstrations at the site of the now-infamous Rana Plaza factory complex, which collapsed last April after a catastrophic structural failure.

Chanting "We want compensation!" and "Death to Sohel Rana!", the owner of the shoddy building, the demonstrators - who included injured survivors and families of the deceased - marched to the ruins of the nine-storey building outside Dhaka carrying flowers and wreaths.

Relatives of the 140 workers still unaccounted for also joined in, calling on the government to help find their bodies. They included toddlers, holding photos of their missing mothers.

"I want my daughter's dead body. At least it would give us some consolation," said crying mother Minu Begum, clutching a photo of her missing daughter Sumi Begum, who worked at one of Rana Plaza's five factories.

For the first time since the disaster, when the site was sealed off, relatives of the dead and survivors were allowed inside. Some fell to the ground, sobbing and grabbing handfuls of dirt, while others prayed.

Violent protests broke out in the capital where police fired tear gas at some 2 000 brick-throwing demonstrators demanding higher wages and compensation outside a small garment factory hub, police said.

"More than 20 garment factories were forced to shut down for the day fearing unrest," local police chief Moshiur Rahman told AFP.

Global labour and rights groups marked the day by criticising the Western retailers linked to the disaster, which include Spanish brand Mango, Italian brand Benetton and French retailer Auchan.

"Brands are failing workers a second time," Ineke Zeldenrust from the Amsterdam-based Clean Clothes Campaign said.

"First they failed to ensure the factories they bought from were safe, and now they are failing the survivors and the families of those who lost loved ones."

'Woeful compensation'

As well as the dead, more than 2 000 people were injured in a tragedy that highlighted the lax safety standards and often abusive working conditions in the world's second-biggest clothing producer.

The disaster shamed Western brands into launching new safety inspections and pushed Bangladesh's government to increase wages and ensure the better enforcement of regulations.

But trade union group IndustriALL slammed retailers this week for making "woefully inadequate" contributions to a proposed $40m fund set up to compensate the families of the dead and the injured.

Of the 29 Western brands who sourced clothes from Rana Plaza factories, about half have deposited $15m into the fund, the Clean Clothes Campaign said. The first payments of $640 for each of the survivors and families of the deceased were only made this week.

British retailer Primark has made the largest contribution of $7m.

Families are angry at local authorities for the slow progress in identifying the workers still missing, while the owner of the building has yet to be charged by police.

"One year after Rana Plaza collapsed, far too many victims and their families are at serious risk of destitution," said Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch.

After the backlash, nearly 200 brands formed two umbrella groups to organise a clean-up of Bangladesh's 3 500 garment factories, which form a $22bn industry second only to China's in size.

They reject criticism that they have done too little.

"Our members alone paid $2.2m into the trust fund," said Mesbah Rabin, managing director of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, which includes US retailers Walmart, Gap and Target.

"The brands are also paying for the costly inspection of the garment factories, which will eventually raise safety standards, boost export potential and improve Bangladesh's brand image that the country is a safe destination for sourcing apparel," he told AFP.

'Faults in almost all factories'

Despite disagreements over who has ultimate responsibility for the victims - Western retailers, their Bangladeshi subcontractors, or the government - most observers credit the industry with making progress.

Engineers hired by retailers have shut down 16 factories and ordered hundreds of others to upgrade. A manufacturers' group closed another 23.

According to the newly created Department of Inspection for Factories, at least 1 031 factories have since been inspected by retailers' groups and government officials.

"We have found faults in almost all the factories we've so far inspected," said Brad Loewen, chief inspector of a group of largely European retailers called the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh - the second umbrella organisation.

The shutdowns and upgrades have resulted in thousands of job losses and million of dollars of cancelled orders, according to the manufacturers.

But the industry continues to go from strength to strength despite the bad publicity and a 77% wage hike for workers which was resisted by factory owners.

Garment shipments have grown 15% year-on-year since the disaster, and minimum wages were raised to $68 a month on average in December from $38 previously.

Read more on:    bangladesh  |  bangladesh building collapse
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Five wrapping hacks you have to know before Christmas

Five gift wrapping hacks that will save Christmas for you!

 
 

I love summer.24

Sexiest Instagrams of 2014
Joburg hot spots for cocktails, craft beer, tapas and wine!
Summer Survey!
Great ideas for the best summer sandwiches!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

30% off the bestselling books

Save big on the most captivating reads of 2014. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

The energy today is serious, materialistic and hardworking. You may find you get a new outlook on things and you may want to spend...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.