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24 Apr 2020

Bangladesh: Seven years on from Rana Plaza factory collapse, garment workers' lives at risk again amid COVID-19

24 April 2020 marks the seventh anniversary of the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh that killed at least 1,134 people and injured over 2,000 others. The collapse of the eight-story building, which housed over five garment factories supplying global brands, remains one of the deadliest industrial accidents to date. Seven years later, unsafe working conditions and deadly incidents continue to characterise the global garment industry. In Bangladesh, significant progress made with the legally binding Accord on Fire and Building Safety - established in the wake of the Rana Plaza disaster - is under threat as it is soon to be replaced by a national RMG Sustainability Council, which labour groups have warned lacks effective safeguards to protect workers.  

The response by brands and retailers to the Coronavirus pandemic has further put the lives of garment workers in their global supply chains at risk, with Bangladesh being severely hit by order cancellations and extended payment terms. More than two million mostly women garment workers have lost their jobs or been furloughed, many without pay or severance. Thousands of workers have staged protests over unpaid wages, risking infection due to the fear of starvation. Where factories remain in operation, workers are reporting being forced to work without adequate precautions, leaving them, their families and communities at risk of infection.

Below is a selection of coverage reflecting on the disaster and looking at the current situation for garment workers in Bangladesh amid the Coronavirus pandemic.