Bangladesh is the world’s second-biggest clothing exporter. Last week’s accident has again highlighted safety problems and poor working conditions that plague its textile industry. It was a tragedy that need not have happened if businesses showed genuine respect and concern for workers’ dignity and rights. Even the Holy Father, Pope Francis, has made an appeal in his Regina Caeli address on Sunday for “the dignity and safety of the worker” to always be respected. For the hundreds of lives that were lost, may their souls rest in peace. For the co-workers and families of the victims who are angry and hurt, may healing be upon them. May God’s justice prevail upon those responsible for this tragedy.
Thousands of Bangladeshi garment workers walked out of their factories Monday, demanding the death penalty for the owner of a tower block that collapsed and killed at least 381 of their colleagues.
Managers at all of the country’s 4,500 garment factories had given workers an unscheduled two days holiday over the weekend in the hope that anger over last Wednesday’s disaster at the Rana Plaza would subside. But police and unions said there was a mass walk-out in the Ashulia industrial zone on the outskirts of the capital Dhaka soon after the reopening on Monday morning and workers then began a protest march through the area.
Local police chief Badrul Alam put the number of protestors at more than 15,000 people. A local television network, Private Independent, reported that a number of vehicles had been torched, including an ambulance. Police responded with rubber bullets and tear gas to bring the unrest under control.
“They blockaded roads and were chanting ‘Hang Rana’,” Alam told AFP, referring to Sohel Rana, the owner of the collapsed compound, who was arrested on Sunday.
Witnesses have said workers reported seeing cracks within the building on Tuesday night, but they were ordered to return to their workstations after engineers had given the structure the all-clear.