The global union federation IndustriALL (of which Unite and the USW are major affiliates) has been running a campaign to support workers in the Bangladesh textile and garment industry.
Below, Tony Burke (writing yesterday at Left Foot Forward) gives some more backround:
The tragedy in the Bangladesh garment industry at Rana Plaza in Dhaka, which has claimed the lives of over 1,000 workers when a building that housed eight factories collapsed, has lead to outrage across the world.
Condemnation has come from all quarters. Governments, NGOs and customers who have been wringing their hands saying “we must put a stop to this – but how do we do it?”.
Those persons condemned include the building’s owner, (who went on the run and now faces with calls from workers for his execution); the owners of the factories; the builders themselves (now all under arrest); but also the Western customers, such as Primark, Mango and others who allegedly ignore abuses of millions workers in the garment industry in order to produce cheap clothing for sale in the West.
The Rana Plaza tragedy follows on from the deadly fire which killed over a hundred workers at Tazreen Fashions in late 2012. And this week eight more workers were killed in a fire at a clothing factory.
Mass industrial manslaughter
The global manufacturing union federation IndustriALL has correctly described the Rana Plaza tragedy as “mass industrial manslaughter”.
Seeing large cracks appear in the building, workers at Rana Plaza evacuated the building – only to be forced back to work by the factory owners.
At Tazreen escape and entry doors and windows were locked shut and workers could not escape the blaze.
IndustriALL has been running a long-term campaign to support workers in the Bangladesh garment industry. There are around 100,000 Bangladesh companies associated with the garment industry, employing up to four million workers who feed the West’s insatiable appetite for cheap clothes. The industry itself is worth 20 billion US dollars .
According to BRAC, one of the leading NGOs in Bangladesh, the country has a safety inspection force of just 18 people.
IndustriALL reports that there are 39 unions in the national garment industry, and too many times they have failed to co-operate with each other. Read the rest of this entry »
From The Mirror website:
Ten days ago Stephanie Bottrill sat in the redbrick terrace house which had been home for 18 years to write notes to her loved ones, the Sunday People reports.
She ripped the pages from a spiral-bound notebook and placed them neatly in little brown envelopes.
There was one for her son. Another for her daughter. Her mother. Friends. And a very special one for the year-old grandson she doted on.
Then in the early hours of last Saturday Stephanie, 53, left her home for the last time, leaving her cat Joey behind as the front-door clicked shut.
She crossed her road in Meriden Drive, Solihull, to drop one of her letters and her house keys through a neighbour’s letterbox. Then she walked 15 minutes through the sleeping estate to Junction 4 of the M6.
And at 6.15am she walked straight into the path of a northbound lorry and was killed instantly. Stephanie Bottrill had become the first known suicide victim of the hated Bedroom Tax.
In the letter to her son, Steven, 27, she had written: “Don’t blame yourself for me ending my life. The only people to blame are the Government.”
Read the full article, from the Mirror, here
By Pablo Gorondi, Associated Press, Budapest
Sandor Racz (above), a labor activist and leading figure during Hungary’s anti-Soviet Revolution of 1956, died Tuesday at age 80.
The World Federation of Hungarians, of which Racz was honorary president, confirmed that he died while receiving treatment for an undisclosed illness at the National Institute of Oncology in Budapest.
The 1956 uprising broke out on Oct. 23 and was crushed by the Soviet army in early November. But as president of the Budapest central workers’ council, Racz and other labor leaders pressed ahead with the objectives of the movement for several more weeks, negotiating with pro-Soviet Prime Minister Janos Kadar and top Soviet military officers.
“For me, the revolution was so unambiguous, that I could not even imagine a Hungarian who does not feel that the Hungarian people are 1,000 percent right when they want to free themselves from an unacceptable foreign, murderous and pillaging system,” Racz wrote in memoirs published in 2005.
Even as the crackdown on those who took part in the revolution was under way — at least 225 people would be executed by 1958— the workers’ councils held two nationwide strikes in November and December.
Racz, then a 23-year-old a tool maker at an electronics factory, was arrested on Dec. 11, 1956, after being lured to Parliament with the excuse of holding talks with Kadar, who ruled Hungary until a few years before the end of the communist regime in 1990. Racz was sentenced to life in prison in 1958 but released under a 1963 general amnesty.
After his release, he returned to work as a tool maker and participated in secret meetings with students, telling them about the events of 1956. He retired due to poor health in 1987 and spent the rest of his life keeping alive the memory of the 1956 events.
“The workers’ councils were very important but they tend to be forgotten because most of the attention is given to the armed aspects of the revolution,” said British writer Bob Dent, author of a book about the revolution. “The councils were unofficial trade unions representing workers during and after the uprising.”
Racz was born on March 17, 1933 near the city of Hodmezovasarhely in southeast Hungary. He is survived by his wife, Aniko Damasdi, and two children.
Bangladeshi soldiers use earth mover during rescue operation at site of factory collapse in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, April 24, 2013. At least 161 people were killed. / AP
Statement from Labour Behind the Label:
Labour Behind the Label today mourns the senseless loss of life, after an 8 story building in Savar, Bangladesh housing 3 clothing factories collapsed this morning (24.4.13). Over 82 workers [now known to be at least 161 -JD] were killed in the wreckage and 800 people injured, with the death toll set to rise as further bodies are found. Labour rights groups and trade unions in Bangladesh and internationally are calling for immediate action from international brands following the collapse.
The building contained 3 separate clothing factories, which locals say housed around 6,000 workers. Following the collapse, activists were able to enter the ruins and discovered labels from brands including Primark and Mango, indicating that they were sourcing from the factories. Rana Plaza also produced for a host of well known brand names including C&A, Matalan and Wal-Mart.
This collapse follows the Tazreen factory fire in the same district that killed 112 workers five months ago, and the Spectrum Factory collapse of 2005 which caused the death of at least 64 workers. The speed of the garment industry expansion in the Savar area is an ongoing and pressing concern. Savar, just outside of Dhaka, has seen significant growth in garment factories in recent times, with factories being built on swamp land and without proper building regulations in place. Labour rights groups say unnecessary deaths will continue unless and until brands and government officials agree to an independent and binding fire and building safety program.
“It’s unbelievable that brands still refuse to sign a binding agreement with unions and labour groups to stop these unsafe working conditions from existing. Tragedy after tragedy shows that corporate-controlled monitoring is completely inadequate,” says Sam Maher of Labour Behind the Label.
She adds: “Right now the families of the victims are grieving and the community is in shock. But shortly they, and the hundreds injured in the collapse, will be without income and without support. Compensation must be provided by the brands who were sourcing from these factories, and responsibility taken for their lack of action to prevent this happening.”
Labour Behind the Label is calling upon all major brands sourcing from Bangladesh to sign the ‘Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement’ immediately to stop future tragedies from happening. The Clean Clothes Campaign, together with local and global unions and labour rights organisations, has developed this sector-wide program that includes independent building inspections, worker rights training, public disclosure and a long-overdue review of safety standards. This transparent and practical agreement is unique in that it is supported by all key labour stakeholders in Bangladesh and internationally.
Note to political cartoonists: time to revisit and update this:
As a general rule, it’s the political right who object to attempts to explain crime by reference to the social, economic or political context in which it occurs. This is, they say, to make excuses and to let evil people off the hook. Individuals must be accountable for their actions and distractions like poverty and unemployment should not enter into the equation.
It is with great sadness that I have to release this statement to clear my name and to protect my family and friends who have been subject to verbal assault cyber assault and even threatened with physical violence. I also truly hope that it will give men who are suffering violence and abuse in relationships some encouragement to come forward and report their abusers. I have already been contacted by a number of men in the trade union movement who have suffered domestic violence but who were afraid to make a public statement out of a misconceived shame and embarrassment about being abused. Up until this point I have not commented upon the allegation that I assaulted Caroline Leneghan as I did not wish to add to Ms Leneghan’ s mental health problems and an RMT internal investigation was ongoing . I feel that now I need to comment as my family are being seriously effected by the unfounded allegations which have been spread on the Internet by people who are not in possession of the facts.
Ms Leneghan made a complaint to the police more than a year after the alleged event(which she claims took place in January 2012), Firstly she said she had no photographic evidence of the alleged “assault” saying that it had been deleted and only laterproduced some very dubious and undated pictures more than a yearafter the event claiming to show her injuries. The police questioned me investigated the allegation thoroughly, had the case reviewed by a senior officer and took No Further Action. Ms Leneghan also made a complaint to my employer the RMT trade union which has carried out an exhaustive investigation and found that I had “no case to answer”. During both investigations I provided hundreds of texts and emails that showed that Caroline Leneghan had been abusive to and assaulted me on several occasions. During the 18 months I spent with Ms Leneghan I was slapped, deprived of sleep, punched, pinched, scratched, elbowed in the ribs, kneed, had shoes ,belts and other objects thrown at me, had paint rubbed in my face and was kicked in the stomach about a week after I had an operation for a hernia. I stayed with Ms Leneghan because she was attending therapy twice a week in an attempt to control her violent outbursts, she suffers from a condition known as Borderline, Personality Disorder and has a history of violence ,severe self harm and attempted suicide. On the day she alleges the assault took place I was assaulted by her and whilst trying to take a screwdriver away from her(on previous occasions I had to take razor blades and knives away from her and call ambulances to treat her from self inflicted razor cuts on her arms legs and stomach) we both fell to the floor, Ms Leneghan landed face down and I landed on top of her. Ms Leneghan then went to her room and appeared the next day with bruising on her face. Ms Leneghan accepted that this was an accident and explained to several people at the time what had happed(several people made statements to the police to this effect). The assault allegations only arose over a year later when I finished my relationship with Ms Leneghan after being kicked in the stomach by her whilst on holiday just a week after I had a stomach operation for a hernia. When I broke off the relationship with Ms leneghan she pretended to be pregnant and threatened to have an abortion unless I had her back ,she even threatened to commit suicide which led me to spend several hours at her address on 1 January 2013 trying to calm her down. (this is all confirmed in the emails I gave the police and my employers). Ms Leneghan then hacked my facebook account on 21 January 2013 and discovered that I was going out with someone else, she made several abusive phone calls to me and sent very abusive and threatening texts and emails to me and my girlfriend and threatened me by text that “you are going down Steve”(which I did not reply to on solicitors advice but provided the evidence to the police and the RMT investigations). Ms Leneghan then went to the police and my employers as I have described. Having spoken to Mankind an organization that deals with domestic violence against men I was informed that abusive women often continue to abuse their victims when a relationship is finished by making false allegations to the police. I hope now that the investigations are complete and I have been cleared of any wrong doing that I can draw a line under this and move on with my life . I hope that Ms Leneghan can also move on continue with her treatment for her illness and find happiness uninfluenced by those who wish to make politically motivated attacks on me and my trade union.
Shahnaz Nazli, a teacher at a girls’ school in the Northwestern Khyber district of Pakistan, was murdered earlier this week. Officially, the motorbike-riding killers are “unknown” but they are clearly the same brand of gynaephobic fascist bastards who tried to kill Malala Yousufzai. The killing was quite widely covered by the likes of CNN, but I could find nothing in the Guardian or on the main liberal-leftist websites.
Can it be that sections of the Western liberal-left have come to simply accept that this kind of thing is inevitable in certain cultures? Or that sections of the so-called “left” even harbour a degree of sympathy with the Taliban as some kind of “resistance” movement?
Maybe Nick Cohen has a point.
And this book is essential reading.
A very well informed piece from a usually reliable source:
by Aron Lund, for Syria Comment
Is the FSA losing influence in Syria? How many people are in the FSA? Is the FSA receiving enough guns from the West, or too many? Will the FSA participate in elections after the fall of Bahar el-Assad? What is the ideology of the FSA? What’s the FSA’s view of Israel? Is Jabhat el-Nosra now bigger than the FSA? What does the FSA think about the Kurds? Who is the leader of the FSA? How much control does the central command of the FSA really have over their fighters?
All these and similar questions keep popping up in news articles and op-ed chinstrokers in the Western media, and in much of the Arabic media too.
They all deal with important issues, but they disregard an important fact: the FSA doesn’t really exist.
The original FSA: a branding operation
The FSA was created by Col. Riad el-Asaad and a few other Syrian military defectors in July 2011, in what may or may not have been a Turkish intelligence operation. To be clear, there’s no doubting the sincerity of the first batch of fighters, or suggest that they would have acted otherwise without foreign support. But these original FSA commanders were confined to the closely guarded Apaydın camp in Turkey, and kept separate from civilian Syrian refugees. Turkish authorities are known to have screened visitors and journalists before deciding whether they could talk to the officers. While this is not in itself evidence of a Turkish intelligence connection, it does suggest that this original FSA faction could not, how shall we say, operate with full autonomy from its political environment.
From summer onwards, new rebel factions started popping up in hundreds of little villages and city neighborhoods inside Syria, as an ever-growing number of local demonstrators were provoked into self-defense. The most important recruiting tool for this nascent insurgency was not the FSA and its trickle of videotaped communiqués on YouTube. Rather, it was Bashar el-Assad’s decision to send his army on a psychotic rampage through the Syrian Sunni Arab countryside. As the corpses piled up, more and more civilians started looking for guns and ammo, and the rebel movement took off with a vengeance.
While the new groups almost invariably grew out of a local context, and organized entirely on their own, most of them also declared themselves to be part of the FSA. They adopted its logotype, and would often publicly pledge allegiance to Col. Riad el-Asaad. As a branding operation, the FSA was a extraordinary success – but in most cases, the new “FSA brigades” had no connection whatsoever to their purported supreme commander in Turkey. In reality, what was emerging was a sprawling leaderless resistance of local fighters who shared only some common goals and an assemblage of FSA-inspired symbols.
The heyday of the FSA was in early/mid 2012, when new factions were being declared at a rate of several per week. But by mid-2012, the brand seemed to have run its course, as people soured on Col. Asaad and his exiles. The FSA term slowly began to slip out of use. By the end of the year, most of the big armed groups in Syria had stopped using it altogether, and one by one, they dropped or redesigned the old FSA symbols from their websites, logotypes, shoulder patches and letterheads. Their symbolic connection to the FSA leaders in Turkey was broken – and since no connection at all had existed outside the world of symbols, that was the end of that story.
The FSA brand name today
Today, the FSA brand name remains in use within the Syrian opposition, but mostly as a term for the armed uprising in general. It’s quite similar to how a French person would have employed the term “La Résistance” during WW2 – not in reference to a specific organization fighting against Hitler, but as an umbrella term for them all. With time, many people inside and outside Syria have started to use the FSA term to distinguish mainstream non-ideological or soft-Islamist groups from salafi factions. The salafis themselves used to be divided on the issue, but they aren’t anymore. The more ideological ones (like Jabhat el-nosra and Ahrar el-Sham) never used it, but at the start of the uprising, others did (like Liwa el-Islam and Suqour el-Sham).
One can’t disregard the fact that many Syrian opposition fighters will casually refer to themselves as FSA members, or that some armed factions actually self-designate as “a brigade of the FSA”. But that does not mean that they belong to some Syria-wide FSA command hierarchy: it’s still just a label, typically intended to market these groups as part of the opposition mainstream.
With time, then, the generally understood definition of the FSA term has gradually narrowed from its original scope, which encompassed almost the entire insurgency. Today, it is understood to apply mostly to army defectors (ex-Baathists), non-ideological fighters, and more moderate Islamists. But the dividing line is not really a question of ideology or organization, it is political. The FSA label is increasingly being used in the media as shorthand for those factions which receive Gulf/Western support and are open to collaboration with the USA and other Western nations.
That still doesn’t describe an actual organization, but at least it’s closer to a working definition of what the “FSA” would mean in a Syrian opposition context – a definition that can’t really decide what it includes, but which clearly excludes most of the anti-Western salafis, all of the hardcore salafi-jihadis, and, for example, the Kurdish YPG militia. Read the rest of this entry »
That girl, the one without the name. The one just like us. The one whose battered body stood for all the anonymous women in this country whose rapes and deaths are a footnote in the left-hand column of the newspaper.
Sometimes, when we talk about the history of women in India, we speak in shorthand. The Mathura rape case. The Vishaka guidelines. The Bhanwari Devi case, the Suryanelli affair, the Soni Sori allegations, the business at Kunan Pushpora. Each of these, the names of women and places, mapping a geography of pain; unspeakable damage inflicted on women’s bodies, on the map of India, where you can, if you want, create a constantly updating map of violence against women.
For some, amnesia becomes a way of self-defence: there is only so much darkness you can swallow. They turn away from all the places that have become shorthand for violence beyond measure, preferring not to know about Kashmir or the outrages in Chattisgarh, choosing to forget the Bombay New Year assault, trying not to remember the deaths of a Pallavi Purkayastha, a Thangjam Manorama, Surekha and Priyanka Bhotmange, the mass rapes that marked the riots in Gujarat. Even for those who stay in touch, it isn’t possible for your empathy to keep abreast with the scale of male violence against women in India: who can follow all of the one-paragraph, three-line cases? The three-year-old raped before she can speak, the teenager assaulted by an uncle, the 65-year-old raped as closure to a property dispute, the slum householder raped and violently assaulted on her way to the bathroom. After a while, even memory hardens.
And then you reach a tipping point, and there’s that girl. For some reason, and I don’t really know why, she got through to us. Our words shrivelled in the face of what she’d been subjected to by the six men travelling on that bus, who spent an hour torturing and raping her, savagely beating up her male friend. Horrific, brutal, savage—these tired words point to a loss of language, and none of them express how deeply we identified with her.
She had not asked to become a symbol or a martyr, or a cause; she had intended to lead a normal life, practicing medicine, watching movies, going out with friends. She had not asked to be brave, to be the girl who was so courageous, the woman whose injuries symbolised the violence so many women across the country know so intimately. She had asked for one thing, after she was admitted to Safdarjung Hospital: “I want to live,” she had said to her mother.
We may have not noticed the reports that came in from Calcutta in February, of a woman abandoned on Howrah Bridge, so badly injured after a rape that involved, once again, the use of iron rods, that the police thought she had been run over by a car. We may have skimmed the story of the 16-year-old Dalit girl in Dabra, assaulted for three hours by eight men, who spoke up after her father committed suicide from the shame he had been made to feel by the village. Or some may have done something concrete about these things, changed laws, worked on gender violence, keeping their feelings out of it, trying to be objective.
But there is always one that gets through the armour that we build around ourselves. In 1972, the first year in which the NCRB recorded rape cases, there were 2,487 rapes reported across India. One of them involved a teenager called Mathura, raped by policemen; we remember her, we remember the history and the laws she changed. (She would be 56 now.)
Some cases stop being cases. Sometimes, an atrocity bites so deep that we have no armour against it, and that was what happened with the 23-year-old physiotherapy student, the one who left a cinema hall and boarded the wrong bus, whose intestines were so badly damaged that the injuries listed on the FIR report made hardened doctors, and then the capital city, cry for her pain.
She died early this morning, in a Singapore hospital where she and her family had been dispatched by the government for what the papers called political, not compassionate, reasons.
The grief hit harder than I’d expected. And I had two thoughts, as across Delhi, I heard some of the finest and toughest men I know break down in their grief, as some of the calmest and strongest women I know called and SMSed to say that she—one of us, this girl who had once had a future and a life of her own to lead—was gone, that it was over.
The first was: enough. Let there be an end to this epidemic of violence, this culture where if we can’t kill off our girls before they are born, we ensure that they live these lives of constant fear. Like many women in India, I rely on a layer of privilege, a network of friends, paranoid security measures and a huge dose of amnesia just to get around the city, just to travel in this country. So many more women have neither the privilege, nor the luxury of amnesia, and this week, perhaps we all stood up to say, “Enough”, no matter how incoherently or angrily we said it.
The second was even simpler. I did not know the name of the girl in the bus, through these last few days. She had a name of her own–it was not Amanat, Damini or Nirbhaya, names the media gratuitously gave her, as though after the rape, she had been issued a new identity. I don’t need to know her name now, especially if her family doesn’t want to share their lives and their grief with us. I think of all the other anonymous women whose stories don’t make it to the front pages, when I think of this woman; I think of the courage that is forced on them, the way their lives are warped in a different direction from the one they had meant to take. Don’t tell me her name; I don’t need to know it, to cry for her.
Other good Indian commentary on this subject:
The death of Jacintha Saldanha is desperately, unspeakably, sad: a dedicated, caring nurse caught up in events she wasn’t trained to deal with and who seems to have then taken her own life in remorse for her innocent part in what most of us would regard as a trivial incident.
There are no simplistic political points to be made about this tragedy, and I certainly don’t intend to try.
First and foremost, the thoughts and sympathies of all decent people must be with Jacintha’s family and colleagues.
But the howls of outrage (not to mention threats) against the two Australian DJs who perpetrated the hoax that seems to have led to Jacintha’s suicide, are surely hypocrisy. How many of those who now bay for the blood of the hoaxers, were laughing along with them not so long ago?
The hoaxers are now, apparently, in hiding and receiving counselling.
I find it impossible to accept the radio station’s claim that the hoax was not illegal (under Australian law recorded conversations cannot be broadcast without the permission of the individuals involved), but I can accept the station’s claim that the suicide of Ms Saidanha was something that “could not have reasonably [been] foreseen.”
These hoaxes can be very funny and even, occasionally, serve a useful purpose (eg Brass Eye’s “Cake” hoax). The hoax call to the King Edward VII hospital that seems to have resulted in this tragedy was not a piece of classic comedy, and did not serve any socially useful purpose: nor did much done along the same lines by by Chris Morris, Armando Iannuci, Victor Lewis-Smith or Dom Jolly. But I freely admit to having frequently enjoyed their hoax calls and “pranks” simply for their own sakes. It never even occured to me that such innocent mischief-making might ever lead to tragedy.
Dom Jolly, in today’s Independent on Sunday has the honesty to amit to feeling “there but for the grace of God go I.” He closes his thoughtful piece with this:
“I actually feel sorry for the Australian DJs. To be honest, they were not very funny and sounded like a pair of arses. But all they were doing was making a stupid phone call that they didn’t think would even work, it was so ludicrous. Jacintha Saldanha was a nurse, not a receptionist: it was five in the morning and she simply answered the call and put through what she believed to be a call from the Queen to another nurse, who was the one to reveal the paltry details of Kate’s condition. Both the hospital and the Royal Family say that they did not take punitive steps. Prince Charles even joked about it. So I say, leave these DJs alone. They must already be suffering levels of guilt that I don’t think will ever leave them, and that is punishment enough.”
More sense and humanity on this subject from Yvonne Roberts in today’s Observer.