On the eve of the tragic Tazreen Factory Ltd. fire that in 2012 killed 112 garment workers in Bangladesh, Solidarity Center Executive Director Shawna Bader-Blau discussed on the Working Life podcast published today how global inequities led to Tazreen and to the 2013 Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh—and how unions can enable workers to help prevent such disasters.
Describing her visit to the burned-out Tazreen factory, Bader-Blau says workers who survived the collapse met with her.
“They told me that they had tried to form unions in that building … and their union organizing efforts were busted by the supervisors and the employers,” she says. “They told me that had they had trade unions, they really believe they would have had more power vis à vis the supervisors and the company to negotiate things like safety improvements for themselves and adequate wages for themselves and their families.
“When workers do have the ability to form and join trade unions, they can bargain to improve their wages, they can bargain with their employers to make their conditions better. Work should be about dignity.”
Listen to the full podcast here.
The search for a better future and the means to support their families in Kyrgyzstan ended tragically for 14 migrant workers Saturday, August 27, in Moscow, when their printing plant caught fire. All of the victims were young women, including two 17-year-old girls, according to reports. Three Russian workers also died.
One of two young Kyrgyz women killed in a Moscow factory fire. Credit: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Burials for the workers were held August 31, in towns around Kyrgyzstan.
The mother of a 21-year-old lost in the fire told Radio Free Europe, “With no work here, the Kyrgyz have to leave.”
The majority of Kyrgyz who leave their country to find work—estimated at about 500,000—head for Russia. There they often face discrimination, exploitation and unsafe working conditions. In the last five years, an estimated 1,500 Kyrgyz migrants to Russia died in workplace and other incidents.
“The stories of the victims are the same: unemployment, poverty, migration,” says Lola Abdukadyrova, Solidarity Center program coordinator in Kyrgyzstan. “They hoped to gain enough money to help to their families.”
Over the last year, more than 1,000 people went through the pre-departure trainings for the migrants conducted by the Solidarity Center in all regions of Kyrgyzstan. They were briefed about their rights and responsibilities while staying in the Russian Federation, with special attention to the legal aspects of employment. Workers were urged to finalize individual employment contracts, in particular, during the trainings. In addition, the Garment, Metallurgy and Mining, Transport and Retail Workers’ Unions actively supported an informational campaign to support migrant workers, putting up posters and installing informational boards in the biggest markets, bus stations and airports across the republic.