April 24 marks the one year anniversary of the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh. More than 1,100 garment workers lost their lives in this tragedy and another 1,600 were injured.
“I’m going to connect you with those human faces who make clothes for you. You are on the top of the supply chain and the worker is on the bottom, and you two have a relationship that you may not know about,” said Kalpona Akter to a group of Canadian workers.
Akter is executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, which conducts labour rights and leadership training for garment workers. Akter started working at age 12 as a garment worker. She visited major Canadian cities on a national tour co-sponsored by CUPE and other unions.
The Rana Plaza disaster is one of the world’s deadliest workplace accidents. “Workers in Bangladesh call it homicide and not an accident because the factory was in poor condition and the owners knew of the danger that existed,” said Paul Moist, CUPE national president. Large multinational corporations such as Loblaws, who sourced their clothing in the building were also negligent and could have avoided this tragedy if they had ensured the buildings met the proper Building Health and Safety Standards.
“One year after the tragedy at the Rana Plaza CUPE stands in solidarity with all the courageous workers in Bangladesh who are fighting for better working conditions,” said Moist. “We actively support their right to organize and join unions, and support their call for better enforcement of Building Health and Safety Standards.”
CUPE is participating in a parliamentary and labour delegation to Bangladesh this week along with UFCW, USW, PSAC, Unifor and NDP Member of Parliament Matthew Kellway. CUPE supports NDP MP Matthew Kellway’s motion in Parliament calling on the Canadian Government to endorse the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh and to pressure Canadian corporations to do the same.