Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) said that over the last 12 years, at least 6,406 workers were killed in workplace related accidents or due to owner’s violence and negligence.
The labour rights group added that in 2000 alone, at least 301 workers and labours were killed. Only 12 years later the annual death toll stands at 906, over three times that number.
BILS Assistant Executive Director Syed Sultan Uddin Ahmad at a press briefing yesterday pointed out that no trials were held in the last 23 years, from 1990, against garment factory owners, who were accused of being responsible for such incidents.
The briefing was held at its office to mark the recent tragedies of Rana Plaza and Tazreen Garments.
“Garment factory owners seem to be above the law. All the laws that we have are for workers and labours in the country. Police arrested a number of agitated garment workers in the city yesterday [Friday] but have failed to nab owners of Rana Plaza.”
The tragic collapse of the building that housed five factories, a shopping mall and a bank, left over 320 dead and two thousand injured. Two days after the incident, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ordered for the “immediate” arrest of the building and factory owners. None was arrested by the time of filing this report.
He added that the government also did not bring to book the owners of Tazreen garments factory, despite the above-hundred death toll in the factory fire in November last year.
The institution’s Vice Chairman Mujibur Rahman Bhuiyan said that the government does not enforce laws against owners of garment factories in such cases, and it has been proven again in the recent Rana Plaza collapse. He suggested that implementing conventions of the International Labour Organisation could solve the problems in the garment sector.
BILS advisory council member Ray Ramesh Chandra said that the government should bring to book factory owners accused of such crimes and give them capital punishment.
He pointed out that the government should have concentrated on upgrading the condition of the garments industry immediately after the Tazreen fire.
“If the government does not do anything about it, it may lose the GSP [Generalised System of Preference] facility,” Ray said, adding that owners and workers of garment factories should hold talks and immediately solve the issues present.