Bangladesh Update: Rana Plaza Death Toll Reaches 511
May, 03 2013 Share
(Updated May 4, 2013)
As of Thursday, May 2, 435 bodies had been removed from the rubble. Seventy-six more were found on Friday, bringing the official death toll to 511.
The situation is chaotic. As of Friday, May 3, only about 20 percent of the collapsed building debris has been removed. Many fear that hundreds more bodies will be found once all the rubble is removed.
Five hundred workers remained hospitalized as of Friday morning, including some 300 with very severe injuries.
|The families of Rana Plaza workers report to a local labor union about workers accounted for, dead or still missing.|
As of today, a total of 2,477 Rana Plaza building garment workers were alive and accounted for \xe2"\x80 having escaped or been rescued. But according to the police and other sources on the ground, some 1,000 workers are still reported as missing by their families.
After the Rana Plaza building collapsed, due to graft and shoddy construction, hundreds of parents travelled from the countryside to Savar to search for their missing children. Thousands gather at the site of the disaster. The stench of death is everywhere.
|Cranes slowly remove debris, uncovering bodies of the dead.|
Bangladeshi Workers Must Have the Right to Organize
There are some 5,000 garment export factories in Bangladesh, 4,300 affiliated to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), while another 700 plants are independent, with a total of some 3.5 to 4 million garment workers, earning as little as 18 cents an hour. Yet, in all of Bangladesh, there is not one single garment factory that has an independent union with a collective contract. This must change!
All the unions in Bangladesh are united in demanding that Bangladesh's duty-free access to the United States under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) should be suspended until the country has made substantial progress in assuring worker safety and fundamental, internationally recognized labor rights, including the right to organize and bargain collectively. Bangladesh's trade benefits under the GSP do not amount to a great deal of money. But this would send a powerful message to the Bangladeshi government that the country's garment workers must have the right to freedom of association and the right to organize independent unions.
The unions are also demanding compensation for workers injured and killed in the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory building. Under Bangladeshi labor law, the family of a worker killed on the job is limited to receiving 100,000 taka ($1,279) in compensation. However, given the level of criminal negligence and given that so many young women and men were killed-many of them parents of young children--these workers' families should be compensated for what they would have earned over their lifetimes. The unions are asking for compensation of 3 million taka ($38,378) for each worker killed.
|Work stops momentarily as
a body uncovered in the rubble is taken away.
28-Year-Old Beauty Has Been Missing for Ten Days.
Her Children are Crying
Beauty was a sewing helper in the New Wave Style factory, on the 7th floor of the Rana Plaza building, which collapsed on Wednesday, April 24. Beauty and her husband have two young daughters and a son. She earned just 18 cents an hour, $1.45 a day, and $37.69 a month.
Beauty’s older sister, Selena, told us:
“My younger sister, Beauty, has been missing since Wednesday (April 24) when the building collapsed. She has been missing for more than a week. Every day we go to the Savar Adhar Chandra High School, and to the perimeter of the Rana Plaza area to search for her. Her husband is sick with grief.
"Beauty called her husband on her cell phone on the morning of April 24th saying that she was trapped under a massive concrete slab. She begged to be rescued. But no one came to get her out of the rubble. 'I want to live for my kids.' 'Save...save...save me!' were the last words her husband, Alam Matruq, heard. Her words still haunt him.
"Beauty's three children are now motherless. Who will take care of them? How will they survive? Who will cook for them? She was not willing to go to work on that day but the factory people forced her into working. They killed her.
|Beauty's sister and brother-in-law holder her photo.|
"The government did nothing to ensure the safety of the workers. Beauty wanted to live for her children but the government failed to reach her. The rescue operation is very slow. Since she is now no more in this world – we have given up all our hopes that she is alive - now we desperately want her dead body so we can bury her with the proper Muslim rituals, so that she can have eternal peace. Beauty was a very loving and caring mother and wife. It seems that the authorities hid her dead body like many other workers. At least 3,500 to 4,000 workers toiled in this building, but just a few hundred dead bodies have been found in the rubble. Where are the rest of the dead bodies?
"Thousands of people like us are roaming around to look for the dead bodies and we are so frantic. Our tears have dried up. We have no tears now. We beg the government to hand over the body of my sister.”
(Update: May 4, 2013)
Beauty's March Pay Stub Shows She Was Being Cheated
Beauty died in the Rana Plaza collapse, leaving her husband and young children behind.
A look at her pay receipt reveals that the New Wave garment company was shortchanging her on her wages:
Beauty should have been paid at least 3,214.64 taka ($41.13).
But instead, management paid her just 2,956.58 taka ($37.82), which means they cheated her of $3.31. These factory owners are criminal!