Hashem Foods factory fire: Bangladesh government must establish inquiry

photo: Munir Uz zaman AFP

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is supporting the call for an independent public inquiry into the devastating fire at the Hashem Foods factory in Rupganj, Bangladesh.

An unknown number of people died in the blaze. The police and fire service have confirmed that the factory exits were locked and that children were working there.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said: “Firstly, our thoughts are with everyone affected by this tragedy, and we’re horrified by the loss of life and the reports that people couldn’t escape because doors and gates were locked. Medical treatment must be provided to injured workers, and they must be fully compensated, along with their families, without delay.

“It’s appalling that children were working there and, due to the hidden nature of child labour, we may never know the number of children who died in the fire or their names.

“The ITUC stands with our affiliate, the ITUC Bangladesh Council, and the IUF in their fight for justice for the victims of this disaster.”

Clear demands

The ITUC is supporting the Sajeeb Group Workers’ Justice Committee, formed by the victims’ families, to demand compensation and to prevent similar tragedies.

Furthermore, the ITUC is backing the IUF and ITUC Bangladesh Council in their call for an independent public inquiry that covers:

  • the criminal negligence of the factory owner that created the deadly working conditions;
  • how the company could ignore health, safety and fire regulations;
  • why no factory inspection had identified the lethal work environment; and
  • the prevalence of child labour in the factory, in violation of ILO Convention 138 and the Fundamental Principles of Rights at Work.

“We support the call for urgent inspections of all food factories in Bangladesh to check they are safe and not abusing children through using child labour.

“The independent public inquiry and its outcomes should include an expedited implementation of the labour reform road map following the Article 26 complaint on Bangladesh at the ILO. This fire is another reminder that the ILO must recognise occupational health and safety as a fundamental right at work.

“It’s clear that to ensure occupational health and safety and the elimination of child labour, all workers in food factories must be guaranteed access to their right to freedom of association.

“Only independent, democratic trade unions of working people can enforce the right to a safe workplace that does not use child labour. Unions make work safer,” added Sharan Burrow.