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At least 28 garment workers were killed and dozens more injured after a fire broke out at a clothing factory near Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.

Several workers apparently suffocated. Others jumped to their deaths trying to escape the burning building or were trampled by panicked colleagues as they rushed for exits.

Eyewitness reports indicate that at least two of the six exits were locked, a common occurrence in the building. The company, That’s It Sportswear Ltd., produces clothing for the Gap and Wrangler.

The Bangladeshi garment industry is notorious for chronic safety problems, including locked or inaccessible fire escapes and malfunctioning fire equipment, often leading to fatal accidents.

CUPE President Paul Moist expressed the anger felt by CUPE members, stating “We stand in solidarity with these workers and we call on the government of Bangladesh to investigate this most recent occurrence and arrest the factory owners and operators. They must improve and enforce laws to protect workers from these senseless deaths and provide a significant compensation for victims and their families.”

The incident follows a very similar to a situation in March 2010 where at least 21 workers were killed and 50 more were injured when the Garib & Garib Sweater Factory in Gazipur, Bangladesh burned.   Garib and Garib produces knitwear for companies like Wal-Mart and JC Penny.

Organizations like the Maquila Solidarity Network (MSN) and the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) are dedicated to improving working conditions and supporting the empowerment of workers in the global garment industries. They’ve tracked numerous incidents similar to these.

Recent incidents in Bangladesh include:

  • 2000: 53 died at Choudhury Knitwear
  • 2001: 24 died at Maico Sweater
  • 2002: 12 died at Globe Knitting
  • 2004: 9 died at the Misco Supermarket building
  • 2005: 23 died at Shan Knitting; 64 died at Spectrum
  • 2006: 63 died at KTS Textile Industries; 22 died at Phoenix; 3 died at Sayem Fashions

CUPE stands in solidarity with MSN and CCC and seeks to ensure that the fundamental rights of workers are respected.  CUPE takes the position that companies in Canada making a huge profit from this type of production must bear responsibility and ensure that any supplier they purchase from is providing workers with a safe and healthy work environment.

For more information on the working conditions of our brother and sisters in the global garment industry, check out the following:

Maquila Solidarity Network

Social Accountability International

Clean Clothes Campaign