A fire at an undergarment factory in southern China killed 14 workers on Tuesday, all of them young women between the ages of 18 and 20. Chinese state media reports quote a former worker who said he torched the facility because he was upset over several hundred dollars in owed wages. Liu Shuangyun, the alleged arsonist, told the Guangdong TV broadcaster in a jailhouse interview on Wednesday that he “couldn’t get [his] salary,” which remained unpaid despite his quitting the factory three years ago. “The whole time, I’ve been very impulsive, very angry about this,” Liu said during the television interview. “So I did these things.”
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Liu told reporters that the factory boss owed him 3,000 yuan ($461) but had only given him excuses about why he couldn’t produce the back wages. When asked if he regretted the loss of life the fire had caused, Liu said that he “didn’t think about these things.”
Despite being separate tragedies, the two fires raise questions about workplace safety and worker exploitation.
The incident comes on the heels of a factory blaze that claimed the lives of at least 112 garment workers in Bangladesh. Despite being separate tragedies, the two fires raise serious questions about workplace safety and worker exploitation.
Senior officials immediately assembled a team to investigate the incident and step up safety measures to avoid similar fires in the future. But despite repeated assurances from the government to improve regulations and oversight, safety standards are regularly flouted and workplace accidents commonplace.
Almost 50,000 people lost their lives in work-related accidents in the first nine months of 2011 alone, according to the State Administration of Work Safety.