Workplace Deaths: A Capitalist Disease

Every year leading up to April 28, the annual Workers Memorial Day, statistics and articles provide ample proof of the epidemic of workplace deaths. On a world-wide scale, every 15 seconds, a worker dies from a work-related accident or disease, and 153 workers have a work-related accident. Every day, 6,300 people die as a result of occupational accidents or work-related diseases – more than 2.3 million deaths per year. An estimated 12 million people die as a result of living or working in an unhealthy environment each year, nearly 1 in 4 of total global deaths, according to the World Health Organization. More than 300 million accidents occur on the job annually; many resulting in extended absences from work. The economic cost of occupational deaths and injuries, and poor occupational safety and health practices, is estimated at 4 per cent of global Gross Domestic Product.

In many cases, capitalist profiteering is the direct cause of workplace deaths. The most notorious example is the garment industry. The years 2012-2015 saw some of the largest garment industry disasters on global record: the Ali Enterprises fire in Pakistan in September 2012, the Tazreen Fashions fire in Bangladesh in November 2012, the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh in April 2013, and the Kentex factory fire in the Philippines in May 2015. These horrific incidents, which could have been prevented with proper health and safety measures, resulted in the deaths of 1,600 garment workers in less than three years.

The lesson is clear: capitalism kills, and the bosses are the culprits. But there is a cure – organized resistance in our workplaces and communities, and at the political level. Stronger trade unions and united political struggles are needed, not more PR campaigns by corporations eager to protect their sales figures.

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