In 1886, when more than a 100,000 workers organized themselves in Chicago to demand an eight-hour workday, the police fired on them, and four of the demonstrators were killed.
On this May Day, or International Workers’ Day, let us remember the significance of that demonstration 132 years ago. It paved the path for the basic rights all workers are entitled to, such as a safe environment and minimum wage, as well as reasonable working hours.
While the conditions in Bangladesh are much different, when it comes our workers, there is still much work to be done.
There is no denying that it was sheer negligence of these very rights that led to the Rana Plaza disaster five years ago.
It brought to the forefront the extent to which our workers are being taken advantage of, not just in the RMG sector, but throughout the nation, in factories, on our streets, in our very households.
But, there is also no doubt that Bangladesh has learned much from that undeniable tragedy in which 1,134 people lost their loves and over 2,500 people were injured.
Thanks to the steadfast reaction of the current government, we have, since then, to the best of our ability, ensured that our RMG workers are taken care of. The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety in conjunction with the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh has worked in conjunction to ensure that these rights continue to be protected.
The time now is to take stock of how what we have achieved, and work towards the elimination of worker rights abuse. Unless and until we treat our workers as fellow human beings, we cannot claim to have progressed as a nation.