Bangladesh: Huge May Day march mourns dead, demands justice and change

May 1, 2013
Workers march in Dhaka to demand greater workplace safety and justice over the deaths of more than 400 people in a factory colla

Thousands of workers paraded through central Dhaka on May Day to demand safety at work after the collapse of garment factory on April 24 -- the country's worst industrial disaster. The collapse killed 402 people and injured 2500.

A huge procession of workers on foot, lorry and motorcycle wound its way through central Dhaka waving banners, beating drums and chanting "direct action" and "death penalty" for the owner of the factory.

From a loudspeaker on the back of a lorry, one participant said: "My brother has died. My sister has died. Their blood will not be valueless."

Five garment factories were housed in the illegally constructed eight-storey Rana Plaza. Five months after a fire killed 112 people at another clothing factory, the collapse again exposed safety problems in Bangladesh's garment industry, which supplies retailers around the world.

Garment worker Mongidul Islam Rana said: "We want regular salaries, raises and absolutely we want better safety in our factories."

About 20 people were injured on April 30 as police fired teargas, rubber bullets and water cannon to disperse protesters in Savar calling for the death penalty for the owners of the building and factories.

Eight people have been arrested over the collapse -- four factory bosses, two engineers, building owner Mohammed Sohel Rana and his father Abdul Khalek.

Police are looking for a fifth factory boss, Spanish citizen David Mayor, although it was unclear whether he is in Bangladesh at the moment.

European Union officials said on May 1 that they were considering action including changes to Bangladesh's duty-free and quota-free access to the EU market to "incentivise" responsible management of the Bangladeshi garment industry.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and trade commissioner Karel De Gucht called for Bangladesh authorities to act immediately to ensure factories comply with international standards. But they said nothing about the gross exploitation of the nation's garment workers.

[Reprinted from Morning Star Online.]

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