Churches make a stand for Bangladeshi garment workers

The Church of Scotland is supporting the Church of Bangladesh in campaigning for better rights and safer working conditions for Bangladeshi garment workers.

Former Moderator of the Church of Scotland General Assembly, the Very Reverend John Christie, is one of the key figures in the campaign.

He was deeply affected by the plight of garment workers during a visit to Bangladesh in his year as Moderator from 2010 to 2011.

Not long after his return to Scotland, 28 people perished in a blaze at a garment factory in Ashulia. Mr Christie was horrified to learn that it was unusual that the victims, mainly women, had been named because there are so many fires in Bangladeshi garment factories that the victims are rarely mentioned.

This year, a horrific factory collapse at the Rana Plaza in Dhaka killed over 1,100 people and injured some 2,000 more. Just six months earlier, a fire in a garment factory on the outskirts of Dhaka killed 117 people.

In both cases, the victims were largely garment workers making clothes for sale in Western countries.

Now the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church, Church Mission Society and other agencies are uniting with the Church of Bangladesh to make a stand for garment workers in the run-up to Christmas and the winter sales.

The campaign aims to mobilise chuch members and others in the UK, US and Canada to lobby retailers and politicians to improve wages, safety and working conditions for Bangladeshi garment workers.

The Church of Bangladesh has made this a priority issue and its Moderator, Bishop Paul Sarker, reached out to injured and bereaved families after the Rana Plaza factory collapse.

Mr Christie said: "We are not going to go in as white knights and say 'this is how you have to do it'. If the rest of us support Bishop Paul and the Church of Bangladesh in what they are doing we have an opportunity for a positive step.

"Churches can do far more together than separately and by acting together we can work towards improving health and safety conditions and thus the quality of life for the many Bangladeshi garment factory workers.

"Together we are seeking justice for the garment workers and their families which are heavily dependent on them."