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19 Apr 2021

Emily Chan, Vogue

Eight years after Rana Plaza, garment workers continue to lose their lives in dangerous factories, highlighting need for a binding global safety agreement

“It Has Been 8 Years Since The Rana Plaza Disaster. What’s Changed?”, 19 April 2021

There was outrage around the world when 1,134 people died in the devastating Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh … In the aftermath of the disaster, major brands denied knowledge of their garments being produced there – with campaigners forced to dig through the debris to find clothing labels identifying the companies linked to the factory.

Eight years on, garment workers are still tragically losing their lives while making our clothes. In November 2020, 12 people were killed in an explosion at a garment factory in Gujarat, India. In March this year, 20 people were killed and dozens left injured after a fire tore through a clothing factory in Cairo, Egypt, with a further eight killed and 29 injured when a 10-storey building collapsed in the same city later that month. Meanwhile, in Gazipur, Bangladesh, one person died and another 42 workers were left injured following a factory fire.

Following the Rana Plaza tragedy, the 2013 Accord on Fire and Building Safety – a legally binding contract to ensure garment workers in Bangladesh have a safe working environment – was signed by more than 200 brands globally…

“Building safety has hugely improved [in Bangladesh],” says Babul Akhter, general secretary of the Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation. However, fire and electrical safety still remains an issue…

The existing Accord agreement, which only applies to Bangladesh, expires in May – with campaigners calling for brands to sign up to a new international contract to ensure the safety of garment workers in other countries globally, too...

The global pandemic has also highlighted the extreme difficulties that garment workers face ... the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) found that 80 per cent of workers have been going hungry...

During the pandemic, there have also been reports of increased harassment in the workplace, with sexual violence remaining a major concern.

Workers’ safety goes beyond the physical conditions of the factories they’re working in – and what’s clear is that eight years on from Rana Plaza, we still aren’t doing enough to protect workers.