Dhaka, Bangladesh – On the one-year anniversary of the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh that claimed 1,135 lives, tens of thousands of Bangladeshi garment workers took to the streets of Dhaka, joined by trade unions from Canada.
Paul Meinema, National President of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union in Canada, who took part in the demonstrations in Dhaka at the invitation of Bangladeshi garment worker unions, stated, "The tragedy at Rana Plaza one year ago today was the result of a global system of apparel production and consumption which was never acceptable but is no longer sustainable. We are calling on Canadian retailers who source from Bangladesh to join the Accord on Fire and Building Safety, which has been negotiated between the global labor movement and large brands and which represents the only way forward to ensure worker safety in Bangladesh's garment sector, now the second largest in the world. Loblaw has been a leader among global brands in being one of the first companies to sign the Accord, which now has over 160 signatories. We call on other companies to follow Loblaw's lead and sign the Accord. The UFCW will continue to support the struggle of Bangladeshi garment workers so that our union members in Canada who sell the clothes made on the other side of the world may soon rest assured that they were produced in conditions that do not jeopardize the safety of workers."
The delegation was comprised of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, the United Steelworkers, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Public Service Alliance and Unifor, and was led by Matthew Kellway, MP for Beaches-East York, and Chair of the Canada-Bangladesh Parliamentary Friendship Committee.
Meinema stated, "I want to thank Matthew Kellway for the leadership that he has shown on the issue of international human rights and for his campaign to improve labor rights for Bangladeshi garment workers."
Matthew Kellway MP, speaking from Dhaka stated, "We came here in sorrow to commemorate the victims of Rana Plaza; to stand in solidarity with the workers of Bangladesh; and recommit ourselves in our work to reform the prevailing conditions in the ready-made garment sector here. During my time here, I have met with the Bangladeshi Minister for Commerce, the Foreign Secretary and the Labor Secretary, and I was encouraged and impressed by the seriousness with which the Government is treating the situation. I am due to meet with the International Labour Organization but I already understand that it is doing an excellent job here. Finally, I want to acknowledge the assistance received from Her Excellency Heather Cruden, Canadian High Commissioner to Bangladesh, and her team, all of whom have done an excellent job facilitating my visit".