KARACHI: We condemn industrial accidents and loss of human lives which occur because of the absence of occupational health and safety measures at workplaces. The Tazreen Fashion Limited, a clothing factory in Bangladesh, was housed in a multi-storied building in which workers were trapped by the fire due to a lack of emergency exits. All three staircases going down to the ground floor were closed. A similar incident happened in Pakistan recently and this resulted in the deaths of over 250 workers at a garment factory. Both factories, in Dhaka and Karachi, where gross violations of labour standards occurred, made products for multinational corporations (MNC).
Local employers and the MNCs both have a legal obligation to ensure a safe and secure working environment for all their workers. Unless corporations and local vendors check their greed for profit and change their policy of cutting labour costs even if it costs human lives, terms and conditions of work will not change for workers in South Asia as a whole.
Bangladesh is the world’s second largest exporter of garments — it has around 4,000 garment factories whose annual exports total around $20 billion. A large number of these factories run their enterprises without proper occupational health and safety measures. Now is the time for the Government of Bangladesh to ratify the ILO Convention 155 which will provide a baseline to address the issue of occupational health and safety at the industrial and enterprise levels.
Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER)
Published in The Express Tribune, November 30th, 2012.