SACTWU expresses condolences and solidarity with the workers of Bangladesh Print
Wednesday, 28 November 2012 11:36


Press Statement: Immediate

The Southern African and Clothing Textile Workers' Union (SACTWU) expresses condolences and solidarity with the workers of Bangladesh, after a fire in the Tazreen clothing factory massacred at least 109 people. There are reports that the death toll could be as high as a 120. As South African clothing and textile workers, we are connected to Bangladeshi workers by class and by our common work. An injury to one is an injury to all.

This slaughter of workers is outrageous, but it is not unusual and we note with horror and disgust the dehumanizing conditions under which Bangladeshi clothing workers work.

Fires in Bangladeshi clothing factories are not uncommon. In this instance, as in others, the fire escapes were blocked and workers were trapped. Reports have described how workers were jumping from windows in the factory to escape the flames, as they fell to their deaths.

We also note that the disgraceful abuse of Bangladeshi workers is not limited to the dangers posed to their lives by fires. In this regard, Bangladeshi clothing workers - overwhelmingly women - are also the disproportionate victims of workplace rape, as police reports from the capital city Dhaka show.

On top of this, these workers earn staggeringly low wages - often from as little as $45 per month If not less, which is well below their national poverty line. This apparently suits the needs of retailers (including the likes of Wal-Mart and Carrefour who are supplied by company  which owns Tazreen clothing factory).

South African retailers also purchase clothing from Bangladesh, and Bangladeshi garments-of-shame adorn many South African consumers. After all, almost R360 million worth of clothing has been imported from Bangladesh this year to date. By sourcing from such countries, retailers take advantage of workers' abuse and also pit South African clothing workers against their comrades in Bangladesh, in an effort to achieve lowest prices. Locally the results are massive downward pressure on workers' wages and abuses - perhaps best seen in places like Newcastle in Kwa-Zulu Natal, where factory fires, abysmal wages and horror conditions are common.

Issued by
Andre Kriel
SACTWU