December 10, 2012
ANROEV Statement against the recent fires
The Asian Network for the Rights of Occupational and Environmental Victims (ANROEV) expresses its deep sadness and outrage at two recent fires within a spate of three months in Karachi and Dhaka. These fires together killed more than 420 workers and have now become the most devastating fires, in terms of the death toll, in Asia.
ANROEV being a victims’ network, spread in more than 14 Asian countries, was bonded together by two similar devastating fires in Thailand and China almost two decades back. Thus ANROEV fully understands the pain and agony that the victims and their families are facing and would like to express deep solidarity with the affected workers and their families. Just when we thought to have buried the ghosts of past, Karachi and Dhaka opened the old wounds again and this time more painful. History keeps on repeating in gruesome way.
ANROEV members would also express deep outrage at the colossal loss of life, which is now unprecedented by any scale. We cannot control fires, as accidents happen. However fires should not kill so many workers; fire safety is the minimal basic that workers deserve. Providing safe fire passage is well known for more than a century since the ‘Triangle Fire’ of New York in 1911 and if they are not there or remain blocked any deaths henceforth should amount to ‘murder’ and not accident.
In both Karachi and Dhaka fires, workers died due to lack of proper fire exits or exits that were locked, something that has killed workers in past also. We therefore consider these deaths as willful murders.
The fires again expose the ‘quest’ for profits by the major clothing brands and retailers at the cost of workers life and health. The price of clothes does not reflect the real cost of the production as most of the costs are externalized. This production process has also ensured that the workplaces remain ‘union free’ with anti-union practices rampant both in Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The fires also reflect the hollowness of the ‘self regulatory’ standards that manufactures and brands have been adopting in with collusion of the state that has been systematically weakening the state regulatory mechanisms, which would allow inspections of these facilities by local authorities.
The network therefore demands:
- Immediate fair compensation to all the victims and their families and proper long term rehabilitation for all the affected workers and their families.
- Free and independent enquiry into root causes of the accident, which should lead to long term structural changes
- Criminal prosecution of all the responsible parties – including the owner, buyers for their negligence and auditors that ‘certified’ the premises as safe.
- Companies should be obliged to comply with national and international health and safety measures, whichever is a higher standard, in a serious manner through which should be monitored locally by strengthening the local independent inspections
- Union and workers participation at all levels in health and safety policies and decisions has to be recognised as indispensible component in ensuring safe and healthy workplaces. Concrete steps should be taken to ensure freedom of association.
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- Asia Monitor Resource Centre
- Association of Workers with Occupational Injuries
- Center for Worker’s Health and Safety
- Occupational and Environmental health Network of India
- Institute of Occupational Health
- Korea Institute of Labor Safety and Health
- Korean Public & Social Services and Transportation Workers’ Union
- Korean Confederation of Trade Unions
- The Ma-Tchang-Geoje Coalition for Elimination of Occupational Injuries and Illness
- People’s Solidarity for Social Progress
- The Solidarity for Healthy Labor World
- Solidarity for Worker’s Health
- The Ulsan Coalition for Elimination of Occupational Injuries and Illness
- RightOnCanada.ca, Director, Kathleen Ruff
- Hilda Palmer, Acting chair of national Hazards Campaign
- Sugio Furuya, JOSHRC
- Jason Chan, Publication and Documentation Manager, Labour Action China
- Asian Transnational Corporation Monitoring Network
- Committee for Asian Women and Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selango
- Korean Metal Workers Union