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Bangladesh, A Slaughterhouse for Workers

According to fire officials in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, a fire at a food and beverage factory has killed at least 52 people. Many workers had been trapped in flames inside the factory because the main exit of the factory was "illegally" locked. The blaze broke out Thursday night at the five-storey Hashem Foods factory in Rupganj Industrial Park, just outside Dhaka, and a huge cloud of black smoke covered the area. Initially police reported only three deaths, but on Friday afternoon, firefighters said they had found 52 bodies. According to some reports, most of the victims of this tragedy are children. As the factory was burning in the flames and the ambulance convoy lined up, the families and relatives of the workers trapped in the flames waited impatiently, anxiously and with tears in their eyes to hear the fate of their loved ones. The factory that caught fire on Thursday is said to be a subsidiary of the Sajib Group, a Bangladeshi company that produces non-alcoholic drinks under the auspices of an international company based in Lahore, Pakistan. According to the group's website, the company exports its products to countries such as Australia, the United States, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Bhutan, Nepal and countries in the Middle East and Africa.

This is not the first and will undoubtedly be the last catastrophe to occur in workplaces, factories and industries in Bangladesh that are making colossal profits, and which are making workers the victims of their extreme profiteering. In April 2005, a garment factory in Savar collapsed, killing 75 workers. In February 2006, another factory in Dhaka collapsed, killing 18 people. In June 2010, a building collapsed in Dhaka, killing 25 people. In 2012, about 117 workers died while working behind locked doors at a garment factory in Dhaka. The following year, the country's worst industrial disaster struck when the eight-story Rana Plaza garment factory collapsed outside Dhaka, killing more than 1,130 people and injuring more than 2,400 workers. These are the "factories" of the age of capitalist globalization in the 21st century, weakly built factories for production processes that depend on long working days, worn-out machinery, and workers who surrender their lives to the needs of production. In these factories, employers even steal the time needed to consume fresh air and sunlight from workers in order to get the maximum work out of them.

Eight years ago, the Rana Plaza garment factory disaster survivors' lawsuit against an order that was systematically and consistently based on lower production costs and higher profits had such widespread global repercussions that some large companies producing their goods in the eight-storey building, were forced to demand some safety conditions and facilities in these factories. Under the pressure of this global protest, the Bangladeshi government was forced to take measures to ensure the safety of these buildings. However, four years later, in October 2017, when state inspectors visited the 1,800 workshops that produce goods for nearly 200 of the world's largest companies, they came across 11,800 examples of non-compliance with safety regulations. This was so grave that they had to close some of these workshops. Many Western companies and raw material companies still do not comply with these regulations. Some published statistics show that there are 8,000 informal workshops that are not controlled at all.

However, government officials in Bangladesh have repeatedly claimed that they have enacted stricter safety laws, but it is clear that such claims are more propaganda, employers themselves are the law enforcers, and despite these laws, the management of Hashem Foods' five-story factory in Rupange had locked the main exit of the factory on the workers on Thursday night. Also, the scale of the disaster shows that even the minimum safety regulations have not been observed.

The Bangladeshi government generously allows the employers of these factories to enjoy the benefits of low-cost products, with no liability to workers. It also gives supermarket chain owners in Australia, the United States, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Bhutan, Nepal, and countries in the Middle East and Africa the opportunity to sell their products that are produced with cheap labor and make huge profit without worrying about inhumane production methods and conditions.

In fact, what is happening in factories and production centers in Bangladesh is a direct result of the organization of world capitalist production. All the capitalist governments and all the big companies are involved in this new organization and the imposition of these inhumane conditions. Who can deny the simple fact that on the other side of the wealth accumulated in the hands of a few is the enslavement of millions of workers in workshops and factories where employers steal even the time needed to consume fresh air from workers. Although the workers of Bangladesh are at the bottom of this cycle of modern slavery, this chain of slavery can only be broken by the worldwide uprising of the labor movement, the movement of modern Bangladeshi slaves, and the support and solidarity of the world working class.

Bureau of International Relations of the Communist Party of Iran

11 July 2021

Email: international@cpiran.org

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