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24 Apr 2019

Zobaida Nasreen, Daily Star (Bangladesh)

Commentary: Post-Rana Plaza, what we have achieved and what we haven't

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The Rana Plaza collapse... laid bare the deeply unequal globalised supply chain...Even in the present day, the Rana Plaza disaster continues to unfold for its survivors. According to an ActionAid study, 51 percent of the survivors are still unemployed due to physical and mental challenges, while the condition of one-fifth of the survivors is getting worse...On top of it all, the survivors have to deal with everyday struggles of depression and trauma, in the absence of adequate healthcare for issues related to their injuries...The collective efforts of the government, factory owners, Western brands and retailers, trade unions, and two inspection bodies—the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety—have made considerable progress in fire, electrical and structural safety in the garment factories over the past six years. Undoubtedly, garment factories are now safer workplaces than they were six years ago. But safety is a continuous journey, not a final destination. Also, significant problems remain as garment workers are still struggling to earn a fair living wage, the right to form unions that genuinely represent their interests, and the right to access affordable healthcare, housing and transportation. The garment workers have very little economic security as Bangladesh has one of the lowest minimum wages in the world...Now that the Bangladesh RMG industry has gone through a transitional phase, it is important that it sustains the progress that has been made over the past six years in workplace safety. In order to do so, the retailers and brands must take responsibility to improve the lives of those working in their supply chains, and especially address their poor wages and lack of safety nets. Considering the huge profits these companies are making, they must commit to pay more.