IUF Food & Beverage Workers Council-Bangladesh Press Release – July 8, 2022

1 year after the Sajeeb Group factory fire tragedy – IUF Food & Beverage Workers Council-Bangladesh commemorates the tragic death of workers

The IUF Food and Beverage Workers Council-Bangladesh recalls the tragic death of 54 workers, including 19 children, and the injuries of many more workers in the Sajeeb Group’s Hashem Foods factory fire on 8 July, 2021.

The Council paid tribute to the victims of the fire tragedy in a commemoration meeting held today at the National Press Club, Dhaka. The Council demanded exemplary punishment for the owner of Sajeeb Group, who failed to provide a safe working environment for the workers and violated laws, leading to the tragic deaths of workers. Reaffirming the commitment to continue fighting for workers’ right to a safe workplace across the food industry in Bangladesh, Council members also demanded compensation for the workers killed and injured in the Hashem Foods fire tragedy in accordance with ILO Convention No.121.

To ensure the health and safety of workers and to prevent any recurrence of further killings of workers at the Hashem Foods as well as other food factories, the speakers called for a tripartite body to monitor working conditions in the food industry as part of implementing the ILO Roadmap adopted by the International Labour Conference on 10 June, 2021.

Hasnain, 11, was one of 19 children who died in the Hashem Foods factory fire

Speakers noted that in the year since the tragic fire at Sajeeb Group’s factory, the families of the killed and injured workers have not been properly compensated and the factory is still not safe. Investigations reported by various government agencies, including the Narayanganj district administration, revealed that child labour worked in the Hashem Foods factory, there was no safe working environment and the factory owner violated laws. Despite that, the factory is running and workers are working there. There are also allegations that in other factories under the Sajeeb Group of Companies, workers are still working with hazardous and unsafe working conditions. The speakers demanded severe punishment of owner of Hashem Foods for killing 19 children, including 11 years old child Hasnain.

The speakers also said that safe workplace is a basic human right of all workers. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure a safe workplace and the government responsibility to ensure that employers meet their obligations in the workplace to provide workers’ safety and that work arrangements are safe for workers. Thus the government cannot avoid the responsibility of the loss of lives and injuries of the workers due to unsafe workplaces.

The meeting was presided over by IUF Food & Beverages Workers Council-Bangladesh member PVM Employees Union President, Kamrul Hasan Polash, and conducted by IUF Asia pacific national officer Nasrin Sultana. The convenor of the Sajeeb Group Workers Justice Committee, Abdul Mazid, Member Secretary Golam Sorowor, President of Coca-Cola Employees Union Md. Abul Kalam, Joint director of COAST Foundation Mujibul Haque Munir, Organizing Secretary of PVM Employees Union Khorshed Alom, SGWJC members Sharmin Akter, Md Raihan and the representative of IUF Food and Beverage Workers Council-Bangladesh member unions spoke at the meeting.

At the end of the  commemoration meeting prayer was offered for the peace of the departed soul of the workers who died in the Hashem Foods tragedy on July 8, 2021.