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Bangladesh: COVID-19 pandemic undermines ongoing worker struggles for social protection, living wages, freedom to organise & safe factories

"Remembering the Rana Plaza workers by continuing the fight for workers' rights during the pandemic", 24 April 2020

...Today, we remember the workers who died in the Rana Plaza collapse... While we commemorate this crisis, workers’ lives are again at risk. The Covid-19 pandemic... is undermining the ongoing worker struggles for social protection, living wages, freedom to organise, and safe factories in Bangladesh...

[W]ith demand drying up, orders being cancelled and postponed, and millions of garment workers facing destitution, it is of paramount importance that hard fought labour protections are not rolled back...

[T]he Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, established in direct response to the Rana Plaza disaster... [is soon to] be replaced by a national RMG Sustainability Council... [yet] safeguards to ensure its effectiveness in protecting workers remain conspicuously absent...

Some buyers have since reversed their decision [to cancel orders in response to COVID-19]... However, a significant number of major buyers from Bangladesh, notably Arcadia (Topshop), Gap, Walmart, Bestseller... continue to... refuse to pay and receive their completed orders...

Some factories have... reopen[ed] despite the government-declared extended lock down, forcing workers back to work under threat of dismissal or loss of already earned wages... Workers’ health and safety should not be put at risk by prematurely opening the factories...

The workers of the Rana Plaza factories knowingly were forced to enter the unsafe building, because their managers threatened they would withhold a full month of wages. Now millions of workers again might soon have to chose between their health and safety on the one hand and livelihood on the other...

Part of the following stories

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

Bangladesh: Signatories extend Accord by 3 months, under pressure to negotiate new legally binding agreement with unions to ensure worker safety