Pope Francis thinks that the conditions of the workers victims of the collapse of the building near Dhaka in Bangladesh were “slave labor”. In a homily at Mass Wednesday May 1st.According to Vatican Radio, in his reflections during he homily the Pope said:
“not paying a just [wage], not providing work, focusing exclusively on the balance books, on financial statements, only looking at making personal profit. That goes against God! How many times – how many times – have we read in ‘L’Osservatore Romano’ …. A headline that impressed me so much the day of the Bangladesh tragedy, ‘Living on 38 euros a month’: this was the payment of these people who have died … And this is called ‘slave labor!’. And today in this world there is slavery that is made with the most beautiful gift that God has given to man: the ability to create, to work, to be the makers of our own dignity. How many brothers and sisters throughout the world are in this situation because of these, economic, social, political attitudes and so on … “.
The Pope then quoted the reflections of a rabbi from the Middle Ages on the episode of the Tower of Babel, of how precious bricks were at that time, more than people.
“And this is what happens now! People are less important than the things that give profit to those who have political, social, economic power. What point have we come to? To the point that we are not aware of this dignity of the person; this dignity of labor. But today the figure of St. Joseph, of Jesus, of God who work – this is our model – they teach us the way forward, towards dignity. “
The Catholic Archbishop of Dhaka, Patrick D’Rozario spoke also to Vatican Radio about the building collapse in Dhaka. He says endemic corruption is a contributing factor with up “over 90% of buildings” in Bangladesh not built according to the official construction regulations.
Another problem, the Archbishop says, is the desire of the overseas clothing companies who want “cheap labour” but who often don’t realize the poor and dangerous working conditions facing those who work for these garment factories. “They don’t see whether they are treated humanely,” he says. Archbishop D’Rozario says “justice is needed for these workers” and suggests that the factory owners, the overseas clothing companies and the Bangladeshi government should all work together to improve conditions for the workers, but is realistic about the situation and says that despite this tragedy has impressed deeply and mobilized the people, “the corruption is always there”. He believes that the international community in particular can help apply pressure for better working conditions and that these companies should not just be always looking to secure the “highest profits.” “They must also pay for the work” and for safer working conditions, he says in an interview with Vatican Radio.
More than 500 people died in the collapse of an eight story building housing several garment factories last week . According to several sources the workers didn’t want to enter the factory that day and were protesting because the building was unstable but were forced by their managers, and then one hour after suddenly all collapsed with 2.000 people inside. After that, there were angry protests and some arrests. The factories in that building worked for some western brands like North American retailers The Children’s Place and Dress Barn, Britain’s Primark, Spain’s Mango, Italy’s Benetton and Wal-Mart, among others.