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19.04.2017: NGWF-led Ananta workers’ movement prevents repetition of ‘Rana Plaza tragedy’ in Dhaka city

Ananta demonstration April 2017. Photo: © NGWFAnanta demonstration April 2017. Photo: © NGWFThe workers of Ananta Fashion & Ananta Apparels Ltd, two garment factories housed at same building in Dhaka metropolitan city, resisted repetition of another Rana Plaza tragedy through united movement following partial collapse of the building recently under the leadership of the NGWF along with their factory union.

Security guardrooms at the ground floor of 15-the storied Ananta Plaza, which houses both the factories, collapsed on April 5, 2017 at about 5:00pm, when about 3000 mostly women workers were still producing RMG products inside the building, giving in to big earth-hole created due to pressure of a massive excavation of immediately adjacent land.

The ‘Rana Plaza Tragedy’ took place on April 24, 2013 when the 8-story building that housed five RMG factories, killed 1,138 and injuring over 2000 workers, most of whom were women. That was the worst industrial accident of the world in 100 years. Hundreds of the wounded Rana Plaza survivors suffered permanent disability & still languishing in unbearable pains.

The Ananta workers could have end up in similar fate as like as those of Rana Plaza victims if the union (Ananta Fashion & Apparels Workers Union—AFAWU) leaders, as per directives of the NGWF, did not evicted the building immediately after the Security Guard’s rooms, at the ground floor, collapsed. The AFAWU leaders asked the management to immediately close the factory till the building is not structurally remediated enough for human occupancy. The management agreed to a two-day closure from 5:15pm.

NGWF Organizing Secretary Rafiqul Islam Rafique immediately rushed to the place & had an impromptu meeting with the workers, who decided to hold demonstration at the headquarters of the Directorate of Inspector General of Factories & Establishment (DIFE), the government department to take care of safety of factories & industrial establishments across the country. The program was planned with a view to convince the DIFE to force owner/management to close down the factories until complete structural remediation. The NGWF also contacted the ACCORD to investigate the state of safety & human-security at the Ananta building.

In the morning on April 6, hundreds of the Ananta workers paraded to the DIFE building & erected blockade at the entrance of the office (inside the building) demanding that the Inspector General of Factories & Establishment (IGFE) send an official team to inspect safety situation at the Ananta site. The IGFE had complied with and the DIFE issued notice of factory closure till structural remediation of the Ananta Plaza to make it safe for human occupancy, telling that the building is risky for human being. Then the workers, in a procession, moved to the head office of BGMEA (Bangladesh Garment Manufacturer & Exporters), the apex body of the factory owners of the country, to press home their demands, including factory closure, salary compensation & continuity of service during the period.

Meanwhile, the ACCORD dispatched a team structural engineers & remediation experts to visit the Ananta Plaza for investigation. The ACCORD, after the investigation issued a closure notice declaring the building unsafe for workers & production. They asked the factory management to carry four (4) emergency remediation……(see attached file) until the building is safe for production & occupancy. The ACCORD also made announcement of related steps.

On April 7, the workers staged protest in the city center, airing their demands, including structural remediation, salary compensation, job continuity & no victimization. The workers were worried that the whole building might collapse if they were forced to enter in the factories to resuming production after two days (on 08.04.2017). Meanwhile, the management started sand filling & compacting on the excavated area.

On April 8, the NGWF sent a request to concern national & international trade unions & rights to take note of the Ananta situation & act. The letter said, “Please note that 2 (two) factories--Ananta Fashion & Ananta Apparels Ltd--belongs to the same owners & housed at the same building--'Ananta Plaza' (12th floor), 136, Elephant Road, Dhaka-1205. Total number of workers of the two factories together is 2,836. Of them 1,471 are women. Anananta factories are ACCORD's facilities.

One of the security rooms of the building's ground floor collapsed on April 5, 2017 at about 5.00pm for the digging & basement construction of an adjacent 14 story (under construction) building due to lack of adequate structural security arrangement, rendering the Ananta Plaza risky for human presence. Meanwhile, the factory owners announced closure of the factories with discussing with the Union. Workers of the two factories are organized under a common union---Ananta Fashion & Apparels Workers Union, which is affiliated with the NGWF. The workers had refused to work (after 2-day) in the factories untill the building is structurally repaired &  made safe.

In the meantime, the workers of both the factories demonstrated at the office of the Directorate of Inspection of Factories & Establishments (DIFE), situated 29, Purana Paltan, Dhaka-1000. Following the demonstration, the DIFE officials (including engineers) visited the building on April 6, 2017 & declared it risky for the life & safety of the workers. The DIFE directed the factory-owners to close the facility till the experts of Bangladesh University of Engineering & Technology (BUET), after proper investigation, declare the building safe.

NGWF President Amirul Haque Amin is out of the country. Requested you to visit the Ananta Plaza & extend all kinds of cooperation so that the workers could get their rightful dues & compensation.”

The NGWF & the union continued the workers’ movement & maneuverings from through April 8 to April 11. The NGWF letters & send documents to partners and organizations concerned seeking their help & advice.

On April 10, the factory made announcement that the emergency remediation is complete & site was visited by engineers of the Bangladesh University of Engineering & Technology (BUET) & officials of DIFE. All of them announced the facility safe so, the management asked the workers to join the factories on April 10. But, the workers were still apprehensive of building collapse. The NGWF & the management simultaneously requested the ACCORD to investigate the development.

On April 11, experts from ACCORD again visited the place and announced that the building is now safe for production & human occupancy. The NGWF & AFAWU held meeting with the workers & decided to join the factory the next day (April 12) subject to the management, BGMEA & ACCRD’s presence & assurance to the workers during their entrance in to the building.    

However, the NGWF, Union & workers successfully maneuvered the ACCORD & the Government department concerned to force the management to closed the factories till the completion of emergency remediation (40,000 cubic feet of earth filling at the excavation site) as per the recommendations of experts of ACCORD & BUET.

In the morning at about 8:00am on April 12, the NGWF, factory union, management , BGMEA & ACCORD officials, including structural engineers, had joint meeting at 8:00am today at the factory before resuming production after 6-day. The meeting resolved that the factory management would pay salary compensation to the workers for the days it was closed, there will no victimization of workers for their movement and the management committed that they would go for complete remediation of the building complex as per the recommendation of ACCORD as early as possible. This is a great victory of the workers, the Union & the NGWF and a testimony of success of trade union & ACCORD’s partnership.

We thanks all of our partners, national & international trade unions & rights bodies as well as ACCORD for constant quarries and encouraging the NGWF, Ananta Fashion Apparels Union & workers of the two Ananta factories--Ananta Fashion & Ananta Apparels Ltd---who have prevented a repetition of another "Rana Plaza Tragedy" through a united struggles following the recent structural accident on April 5, 2017.


This article is written by Shahidul Islam Shahid of the NGWF, which request all concerned to print & reprint this in their publication as an example of success of the labour movement led by trade union in the RMG sector in Bangladesh




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