Rana Plaza tragedy anniversary: Pakistani workers express solidarity with Bangladeshi workers

KARACHI: First anniversary of Rana Plaza building collapse, the worst industrial accident in the history of textile sector of South Asia in which around 1100 workers lost their lives and 2500 garments and textile workers got injured, was also observed in Karachi Pakistan to express solidarity with the victims’ families and the survivors of the building collapse incident happened a year on 24th April.

Numerous workers have got permanent disabilities due to that building collapse and lost their source of livelihoods. A big segment of those victims and affected workers were women.

Pakistan Institute of Labour Education & Research (PILER) along with other trade unions and workers organizations organized the solidarity function at Pakistan Medical Association’s (PMA) House Thursday evening. Senior labour leader Mirza Maqsood Ahmed, Ms. Zeenat Hisam and Farhat Fatima of PILER, Shakeela Asghar of garments workers union, Ms. Nazia spoke on the occasion. They also expressed concern over lack of occupational health and safety facilities in Pakistani industries.

A similar incident of Ali Enerprises also occurred in Karachi, in which over 250 garment workers lost their lives due to absence of occupational health and safety facilities in the factory. They criticised the role of the government in ensuring the occupational health and safety facilities in Pakistani factories.

They said the Rana Plaza incident has exposed complete failure of the state over compliance of labour laws, workplace safety and the ILO conventions within the country. There was a complete violation of building control and related laws in designing and construction of the building. The vulnerable workers were bound to work in the premises despite of the danger and even early warning that the building might collapse a day in advance. The management of the factories had threatened the workers with dismissal and wage cut in case they refused to work on the day of accident which shows the brutal attitude of the employer towards the worker force. The ready-made garment factories functioning in Rana Plaza were the major producers of the well known international brands Primark, Matalan and Mango and were also certified with the international auditing companies.

PILER considers that the series of devastating industrial accidents in Pakistan and Bangladesh during 2012 and 2013 needs to be taken into account seriously; since workplace safety is the common issue of textile industry across South Asia. PILER demands to end up the biased attitude of the state and employers towards the vulnerable worker force and their basic workplace rights across the region. PILER also demands the governments of Pakistan and Bangladesh to take serious actions for the compliance of ILO conventions and local labour laws within the respective countries. PILER also feels an urgent need for a collective effort and establishing a common South Asian platform to raise the voice of workers for the compliance on Core Labour Rights and ILO Conventions. A common platform would be demanding a uniform minimum wage in South Asian garment sector’s workers and can function as a regional complaint and negotiation mechanism in case of any accident at workplace.

PILER being a labour rights organization has already been engaged in the international advocacy campaign for the immediate relief and rehabilitation of the victims of Ali Enterprise (Pakistan) and Rana Plaza (Bangladesh) victims and survivors since a couple of years and has organized a South Asian Roundtable for garment workers early this year to explore the possibilities for a common regional strategy to ensure labour rights in South Asia especially in textile and garment sector. Though the international campaigning have succeeded to get some achievements regarding the compensations for the Rana Plaza victims; however there is a desperate need to carry on the campaigning further to ensure the rights of the workers who are still working day and night under the inhuman working conditions in the textile and garment sector both in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The seminar was followed by a Candle Light Vigil in front of Karachi Press Club (KPC) to show the solidarity with the victims and survivors of Rana Plaza incident.

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