ITUC-Asia Pacific gravely concerned by the deadly Hashem factory fire in Naranyanganj, Bangladesh

Press Statement
Jul 2021
United Nations
Bangladesh, Factory Fire, Occupational Health and Safety, Child Labour

The ITUC-Asia Pacific is gravely concerned by the raging fire that burned down the factory of Hashem Food and Beverage in Rupganj area in Naranyanganj in Bangladesh, claiming the lives of at least 52 workers and causing injuries to more than 30 others. While the final death toll is yet to be confirmed, the ITUC-Asia Pacific extends its condolences and solidarity to all those who are affected.

The police and fire services of Bangladesh confirmed that the doors and gates of the building were locked to prevent workers from escaping and the rescuers from entering the building. They also confirmed that children as young as 11 years old were employed in Hashen Food and Beverage factory. The number of missing and deceased children from the blaze is still unknown.

Shoya Yoshida, General Secretary of the ITUC-Asia Pacific said, “The Hashem factory fire is not an isolated incident. This incident shows that nine years after the Tazreen factory fire and eight years after the Rana Plaza building collapse, the Bangladesh authorities failed to learn from the horrific tragedies in the past. We are appalled that Bangladesh’s record in occupational health and safety remains dismal despite the government’s commitments to ensure better safety standards after the Rana Plaza collapse. It is also horrendous that children were among the victims in this latest tragedy.

“In this regard, we call on the Bangladesh government to urgently inspect all factories to enforce fire safety and occupational health and safety regulations and to ensure that factories do not employ children.”

The ITUC-Asia Pacific also demands the government of Bangladesh to urgently establish an independent inquiry that will investigate:

  • the criminal negligence of the company in creating the hazardous conditions that led to the fire causing death and injury to workers;
  • how the company could ignore health and safety regulations, fire safety regulations and why no factory inspection identified the hazardous working conditions; and
  • the prevalence of child labour in the factory in violation of ILO Convention No.138 and the Fundamental Principles of Rights at Work.

The ITUC-Asia Pacific also urges the Bangladesh government to recognise the demands of the Sajeeb Group Workers Justice Committee, including the provision of medical treatment to injured workers and the payment of full compensation to affected workers and their families without delay.

“We demand justice for the victims of the factory fire and their families. Tragic workplace accidents must end and child labour must be eliminated. However, these will not happen when workers’ safety and wellbeing continue to be neglected and when the voices of the workers are not recognised. Independent and democratic trade unions play a crucial role in ensuring occupational health and safety and in eliminating child labour. This necessitates guaranteed workers’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining,” Yoshida said.

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