One year on from Rana Plaza: Remember the dead, Fight for the living

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Join the TUC campaign for justice for the
victims of Rana Plaza: TUC.org.uk/jointhechain

by Gary Dunion, Communications Co-ordinator

As I write this, we’re hearing the terrible news that seven people, including firefighters, have been injured in a wood-dust silo explosion at a timber engineers in Forres.

This was going to be a blog post remembering the 1,129 workers who lost their lives, and the more than 2000 injured, when the Rana Plaza building in Savar, Bangladesh, collapsed one year ago today.

But events in Forres are a tragic reminder that workplace safety is a grave issue not just for far-off sweatshops, but for every worker, everywhere. Thankfully it appears that no-one has died, and I hope desperately that those injured make a full and speedy recovery.

But more than two million people a year worldwide do die from work-related accidents and diseases – 6,000 a day, one every 15 seconds. Work is many times deadlier than war.

There are those that look at the extra profits to be made by cutting corners and conclude that a few dead workers is no great price to pay. Those people have been very successful in persuading the rest of us that the laws and regulations that would force them to put workers’ safety first and save our lives are in fact nothing but ‘red tape’ dreamed up by Eurocrats as a pointless power trip.

That’s just propaganda. But speaking as a communications specialist, it’s brilliant propaganda.

It gives strength to the corporate lobbyists that go to work on MPs and especially MEPs, dripping poison into their ears and donations into their parties until they get a safety rule quietly scrapped here, a special exemption there.

One of the reasons I’m so excited about Maggie being an MEP is that she has shown she’s someone with the moral courage to stand up for workers, no matter the skill, riches or power of the corporate lobby.

And one of the reasons I’m proud to be a Green is that we are not bankrolled by big business. In fact, I can tell you that they do not even offer – corporate lobbyists know their job better than to waste money on a party whose votes are not for sale.

Those that would put their bonuses before our safety may have skill and money, but we are still the 99%. If we don’t fall for their propaganda, and if we hold them to account for the injuries, illnesses and deaths of our colleagues, we have the power to demand safe workplaces.

Rana Plaza housed garment factories producing goods for, amongst others, Benetton, Matalan, and Walmart. These high street giants profited from the hard work of Bangladeshi craftspeople at poverty wages, and they profited from the cheap accommodation of their factories in an unsafe building.

But they have not contributed a penny to the Donor Trust Fund for the injured and the families of the dead.

So please sign this petition demanding that these corporations and others pay up. You can find further ideas for action at People and Planet and the TUC.

Next Monday, 28 April, is International Workers’ Memorial Day, and there will be events happening across Scotland, including a ceremony in Edinburgh where Green MSP Alison Johnstone will be speaking. If you’re in Dundee, note that there’s also a Memorial Day lecture tomorrow, Friday 25 April.

I’ve listed all these events below – please do attend one if you can; as the campaigner Tommy Harte said: “Remember the dead. Fight for the living.”

International Workers’ Memorial Day events

Aberdeen – 10.30am, Monday 28 April
Ceremony at Persley Walled Garden, Bridge of Don.

Bathgate – 12.30pm, Monday 28 April
Ceremony at Workers Memorial, Bathgate Sports Centre, Balbardie Park, Torphichen Road, Bathgate, West Lothian, EH48 4LA.

Bonnyrigg – 12.30pm, Monday 28 April
IWMD Memorial, George V Park.

Coatbridge – 12.00pm, Monday 28 April
Commemoration at Summerlee Industrial Museum, Heritage Way, Coatbridge, ML5 1QD.
Speaker: Tom Lannon, London UCATT.

Dundee – 12.30pm, Friday 25 April
Work Place Chaplaincy Scotland and Dundee City Council’s joint Invitational Memorial Day Lecture from 12.30 to 2pm in the City Chambers.
The guest speaker is Sir Harry Burns, Professor of Global Public health at the University of Strathclyde and outgoing Chief Medical Officer for Scotland.

Dundee – 12.00pm, Monday 28 April
Commemoration at Memorial Tree adjacent to Discovery Point, Riverside Drive, Dundee.

Edinburgh – 12.30pm, Monday 28 April
Ceremony at the IWMD Tree and Memorial, West Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh;
Speakers: Alison Johnstone MSP; Sarah Boyack MSP; Ingrid Neil, Scottish Friends of Bhopal; Cllr Donald Wilson, Lord Provost.

Glasgow – 12.00pm, Monday 28 April
Commemoration at the People’s Palace/Winter Gardens, Glasgow Green.

Inverness – 12.30pm for 12.45pm, Monday 28 April
Commemoration at the Town House, Inverness.

Kilmarnock – 11.00am, Monday 28 April
Workers Memorial Day ceremony. Assemble at 11am at Dower House, Dean Country Park, Kilmarnock.

Stirling – 10.30am for 11.00am, Monday 28 April
Commemoration at IWMD Memorial Tree, Old Viewforth, Stirling.

West Dunbartonshire – 10.30am, Monday 28 April
Commemoration at Christie Park Alexandria.
Speakers will include Louise Taggart, Clydebank Asbestos group, Charlie McDonald and Billy McEwan.