For immediate release
A multi stake holder dialogue hosted by the Bangladesh Occupational Safety Health and Environment Foundation (OSHE), Asia Monitor Resource Centre (AMRC),and the Asian Network for the Rights of Occupational and Environmental Victims (ANROEV) to understand the present situation of the Tazreen factory fire, lessons learnt, challenges and way forward took place in Dhaka at the CIRDAP Auditorium on January 7, 2013.
Mr. Repon Chowdhury, Executive Director of OSHE in his opening remarks said that “History will not forgive us if we fail to ensure justice for the Tazreen accident victims. Upholding the dignity and guarantying safe & decent work for all workers in the RMG sector of Bangladeshis an immediate necessity”.
A detailed investigative fact finding report conducted by Mr. Omar Faruq, Program Manager of OSHE Foundationand supported by AMRC highlighted the dire situation at the ground of the workers, gross negligence of the employer, the physical condition of the factory that lead to the death of 111 workers and injured more than 300 workers. The Tazreen factory had only one exit, had flammable materials on the ground floor which were the source of the fire, ignored building codes and did not have proper fire safety requirements. A month and a half has gone by, and all the deceased have not yet been identified and families compensated. The injured are still waiting to receive free and comprehensive medical treatment and rehabilitation.
During the meeting, Mr. Israfil Alam, the Chief Guest, Chair of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Ministry of Labour and Employment appreciated OSHE initiative for independent fact findings and criticized the report of the investigation conducted by Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) terming the accident as “sabotage”. He said the BGMEA report has been designed to save the employer of the factory and termed the report as ill motivated, defensive and biased. He demanded the immediate arrest of the owner of the factory. He concluded by saying that “the garment factory owners are yet to become humans. They are still owners of garment industries.”
Brig. Gen. Abu Nayem Md. Shahidullah, Director General, Fire Service and Civil Defence expressed his dissatisfaction on the unwillingness of RMG factory owners to ensure fire safety provisions. He disclosed that every year 1500 fire accidents are taking place across the country. He emphasised on structural safety in the work places. 40 % of accidents occur due to short circuits.
Sanjiv Pandita from AMRC, expressed deep outrage at the colossal loss of life, which is now unprecedented by any scale. We cannot control fires, as accidents happen. However fires should not kill so many workers; fire safety is the minimal basic that workers deserve. Providing safe fire passage is well known for more than a century since the ‘Triangle Fire’ of New Yorkin 1911, and if they are not there or remain blocked than this shows the apathy towards human life.
Victims of the Tazreen fire came to the meeting and spoke about the fatal day on November 24, 2012when the fire set the factory ablaze forcing them to jump out of the building from higher floors to save their lives as they were locked in the factory.
Morsheda, Age – 30, Sewing Operator said that she was working in the evening of that fateful day. “Suddenly I felt that fire is moving to me, I tried to go down stairs but I was not allowed by the managers. Finding no other alternatives, I broke the window glass with other workers and jumped below. I was able to save my life, but got injured seriously. I cannot move my hands properly and have partially lost my eye sight.”
Mr. Roy Ramesh Chandra, Chairman of the Bangladesh National Council (BNC) an affiliate council of the global union federation IndustriAll said the employers of Tazreen should be immediately arrested for the murder of 111 workers and compensation should be settled immediately along the lines of the Spectrum fire accident tragedy.
Medical attention for the injured workers and traumatized community was identified at the consultation as the need of the hour. The other recommendations included the introduction of a trust fund for the welfare of workers, the right to organize in the garment sector, endorsement and enforcement of National Health and Safety Policy especially for the RMG sector, to enhance the capacity of the Factory Inspectorate Office and the Fire Safety Department to prevent such tragedies and finally introducing Mobile courts to ensure speedy justice.
Repon Chowdhury, OSHE, Bangladesh - repon.chowdhury 'AT 'gmail.com
Sanjiv Pandita, AMRC, Hong Kong - sanjiv 'AT' amrc.org.hk
Mohit Gupta, ANROEV Secretariat, India - mohit.gup ''AT' gmail.com