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Canadians Urge Loblaw to Prevent More Worker Deaths

23 Canadian Organizations Call On Loblaw to Take Action to Prevent More Worker Deaths

On the eve of the Annual Meeting of Loblaw Companies Limited, 23 prominent Canadian trade unions, NGOs and faith organizations have sent an Open Letter to the company’s Executive Chairman, Galen Weston, calling on his company to take immediate steps to ensure that the deaths and injuries suffered by hundreds of garment workers in the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh are not repeated. 

While recognizing Loblaw’s announcement that it will be providing compensation to the families of those who died in the tragedy as a positive step forward, the letter urges the company to “put that commitment into practice by negotiating with Bangladeshi trade union federations and IndustriALL (the Global Union for the manufacturing sector)… regarding the level, form and channels of compensation for both the families of those who died and the workers who suffered injuries and the loss of employment as a result of the building collapse.”
According to Lynda Yanz, Executive Director of the Maquila Solidarity Network (MSN), the letter demonstrates the high level of concern of Canadian civil society organizations from various sectors with the series of preventable tragedies in the Bangladeshi garment industry and their desire for sustainable solutions to the underlying problems that caused those tragedies.

“We are calling on Loblaw Companies Limited, as well as other companies sourcing clothes from Bangladesh that have so far remained silent, to work together with trade unions and labour rights groups to put in place a comprehensive, transparent and effective Fire and Building Safety Program in Bangladesh, one in which workers have an active and informed role.

“Workers lives should not be put at risk in order that we can buy cheap clothes,” says Yanz.

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Dear Mr. Weston:
We the undersigned Canadian organizations are writing to express our profound sorrow and anger at the tragic and unnecessary deaths and serious injuries suffered by hundreds of garment workers as a result of the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Savar, Dhaka, Bangladesh where Joe Fresh clothing was being manufactured for your company.

We are pleased that your company has made a public commitment to provide compensation to the families of the victims of the Rana Plaza building collapse. We urge you to put that commitment into practice by negotiating with Bangladeshi trade union federations and IndustriALL (the Global Union for the manufacturing sector), in consultation with other companies whose products were made in one or more of the factories in the building, regarding the level, form and channels of compensation for both the families of those who died and the workers who suffered injuries and the loss of employment as a result of the building collapse.

We also call on your company to take immediate steps to ensure that such preventable tragedies do not occur in the future. As a first step, we would urge you to commit to signing on to a joint fire and building safety program with IndustriALL and other international brands and retailers that includes, at minimum, independent and transparent inspections, an informed and active role for workers and trade unions, health and safety training for workers and management personnel, effective health and safety committees, and the right of workers to file complaints and to refuse unsafe work. An effective program must be backed by time-bound remediation plans, effective dispute resolution procedures, and real repercussions for suppliers that refuse to improve conditions.

We also urge your company to publicly disclose all factory audit reports for your Bangladeshi supplier factories, including the findings and corrective action taken, so that consumers and civil society organizations can assess the quality of your audits and whether progress in being made to achieve safe workplaces and decent working conditions.

We will be watching with interest how your company, as well as other companies sourcing apparel products from Bangladesh, live up to your responsibilities to the victims of this tragedy and to the workers who continue to make your products.

Sincerely,
BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU)
BC Federation of Labour
Canadian Auto Workers (CAW-Canada)
Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC)
Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW)
Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)
Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP)
Council of Canadians
Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO)
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
Maquila Solidarity Network
Migrant Workers Alliance for Change
Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA)
Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)
Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF)
Ontario Teachers’ Federation (OTF/FEO)
Oxfam Canada
Oxfam Quebec
Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC)
United Steelworkers (USW)
Workers’ Action Centre, Toronto
Workers United
Yukon Teachers’ Association

ENDS

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