Rana Plaza murders show what’s at stake for employment rights

3 June 2015 42 people in Bangladesh have been charged with murder in connection with the Rana Plaza factory collapse which killed 1,134 people in 2013.

4 Jun 2015| News

3 June 2015

42 people in Bangladesh have been charged with murder in connection with the Rana Plaza factory collapse which killed 1,134 people in 2013.

They are charged with ignoring warnings not to allow workers into the building the day before it collapsed.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady commeted; “It is important that those responsible for the terrible loss of life at Rana Plaza face justice. But thousands of factories in Bangladesh are still unsafe, putting more workers lives at risk.

“Repressive labour laws in Bangladesh prevent workers from being able to call for safer conditions through trade unions. It’s shocking that the widespread violence trade unions face at the hands of factory managers continues to go unpunished. The Bangladesh government must allow full freedom of association and UK companies must use their buying power to demand trade union rights are respected, to ensure that the factories they use in Bangladesh are safe.”

Covering the story in April, we pointed out that not much has changed for workers in Bangladesh, and conditions are still atrocious. Sam Maher wrote in the Guardian at the time;

Bangladesh is not a reminder of our past but a vision of our future. When our governments promote neoliberal, free market capitalism as the only game in town, they are aiming for a reorganisation of society exactly like that being delivered in Bangladesh. This envisages an almost non-existent state whose role is largely limited to providing the security forces required to subdue a dissatisfied population. It also anticipates a total lack of any “barriers” to the rapid accumulation of profit – no taxes, no trade unions, no “red tape” of regulation.”

Occupational health and safety is an international issue. The protections we are afforded at work were not freely given but fought for, at no time is this more relevant than now, as EU membership dominates the headlines, and the Tories decimate trade union rights. The “reform” that the Tories are selling will most likely take the shape of diminished protections. Buzzwords like “cutting red tape” are being thrown around as sole justification leave the EU; we know what this really means is abandoning the basic employment rights that Europe affords us; among them health and safety, parental leave, protection against discrimination, the working time directive and paid annual leave.

Loud voices in the media are obscuring the fact that these rights are incredibly popular. A poll commissioned by the High Pay Center found that while the majority of respondents support the maintenance of existing employment rights, only 25 percent knew they come from Europe and are jeopardised if we leave the EU. The poll also found that 66 percent support a European wide pay cap, limiting the pay of company executives to a fixed multiple of their lowest paid employee, and 60 percent support a wealth tax on the richest EU citizens.

As Len McCluskey said; “Some of the most sensible rights for working people flow from our membership of the EU, much needed given the determination of this government to reduce further even the minor protections UK workers currently depend upon.”

The IER is holding an event in London on 10 June, Workplace issues; Taking up the issues with the new government in which health and safety will be a point of focus. Find out more about the event, and book your place here.