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Monday, 13 May 2013

Solidarity with Bangladeshi workers trade unions must step in now

Bangladesh's government agreed on Monday to allow the country's 4 million garment workers to form trade unions without prior permission from factory owners, a major concession to campaigners lobbying for widespread reforms to the industry following a building collapse last month that killed more than 1,100 people. The cabinet decision came a day after the government announced a plan to raise the minimum wage for garment workers, who are paid some of the lowest wages in the world to sew clothing bound for global retailers. Those working at the eight-storey Rana Plaza, which housed five garment factories when it collapsed on 24 April, were paid as little as £25 ($38) per month. Rescuers on Monday continued to search for survivors in the ruins after a seamstress was discovered alive under the rubble on Friday. The woman is recovering in hospital. The toll from the world's worst industrial accident since the Bhopal disaster in India in 1984 stands at 1,127. No bodies were found at the site, in the Dhaka suburb of Savar, on Monday indicating that all may have been retrieved, a spokesman at the army control room co-ordinating the salvage operation said. The tragedy has prompted widespread criticism of international firms working with local garment producers in one of Asia's poorest countries. Several western firms, including UK high street retailer Primark, have said they were supplied by factories in the complex. The building had been illegally constructed, developed massive cracks in the days before its collapse and workers were forced to continue work despite safety fears. The building's owner has been arrested. Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, a government spokesman, said ministers had agreed to amend the law to lift legal restrictions on forming trade unions in most industries. The old law required workers to obtain permission before they could unionise. "No such permission from owners is now needed," Bhuiyan told reporters after the meeting presided over by the Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina. "The government is doing it for the welfare of the workers." Local and international trade unions have long argued for such changes. This is about time the dangers of terrible working conditions and awful pay have been there for years but while the west and capitalist elders turned a blind eye much of these workers faced intolerable conditions. It’s about time trade unions have been allowed to unionize in these factories but for the 1200 workers who died in the disaster this news comes too late for them. A few weeks ago we celebrated international workers memorial day. What an incitement of this rotten capitalist system that a few weeks later this tragedy occurred. Trade unions need to get well and truly stuck in now in areas like this to stand up for workers and not to stand for awful conditions for working ever again. The trade unions need to be democratically run with the members being in control. No to shady deals with the boss’s or watering down any conditions a and pay. If unions do get their act together here we could see pay and conditions raise in nations like this a long long overdue need. But clearly for as long as this rotten bankrupt system of capitalism lives on more sweatshop disasters like this will continue to happen if the blind drive for profit is not ceased. All workers should gain a decent wage to live on and good conditions to work if they so wish to work.

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