Bangladeshi workers mark four years since factory collapse
Savar (Bangladesh) (AFP) – Thousands of Bangladeshi garment workers staged a tearful demonstration Monday to mark the anniversary of a factory disaster that killed 1,138 people, demanding justice for the victims and better pay.
Four years later, no one has yet been convicted over the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex, one of the world’s worst industrial tragedies.
Another 2,000 people were wounded in the disaster, which sent shockwaves across the world and highlighted the failure of many top Western fashion brands to protect workers in the poor developing countries where their goods are manufactured.
“If four years are not enough to punish the culprits, bring them to us, we will find justice for ourselves,” said Marium Akter, whose daughter Shieuly died in the disaster, as she laid a wreath at the site.
“I don’t need any compensation any more. I want Sohel Rana to be hanged,” she said, referring to the owner of the factory complex who has been charged with murder.
A court last year ordered that Rana and 40 others, including factory officials and government inspectors, should face trial for murder. They are accused of falsely certifying the factory complex as safe.
Thousands of textile workers were forced to enter the building to start their shifts even though some expressed fears after noticing cracks had appeared in the structure.
Bangladesh has 4,500 textile factories, exporting some $30 billion worth of garments, but only a few hundred of these have been certified as safe.
Authorities have provided compensation for the 3,000 victims, including the injured and families of the dead, but many survivors say it is not enough.
“I would rather die than live like this,” said Nilufa Begum, who was rescued 10 hours after the factory collapsed and still needs crutches to walk.
“I want to live like a normal human being,” said the 37-year-old, adding she had spent 450,000 taka ($5,700) on treatment.
Many survivors were in tears as they protested at Savar on the outskirts of Dhaka, and at a state-run graveyard where many of the workers were buried.
Some shouted slogans demanding an increase in the basic monthly wage of $68 for the country’s four million garment workers.
“Bangladeshi workers are the worst paid in the world. We want minimum monthly wages of $200 to have a decent living,” Saiful Islam, a union leader, told AFP.