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Rana Plaza, five years on: safety on workers hangs in balance in Bangladesh

Author: Michael Safi, Dominic Rushe, The Guardian, Published on: 27 April 2018

24 April 2018

About 250 companies signed two initiatives, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, and the less constraining Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety. Both were designed to improve safety dramatically in 2,300 factories supplying western brands. Few dispute that the Accord and Alliance worked... Progress is less obvious for workers in at least 2,000 factories that do not supply major western brands, and are inspected either by the Bangladesh government, or not at all... Facing the threat of being cut off by western buyers, thousands of factory owners have invested in fire doors, sprinkler systems, electrical upgrades and stronger foundations, eliminating more than 97,000 identified safety hazards in facilities covered by the Accord alone... [B]oth initiatives are also way behind schedule, mostly due to sheer stubbornness on the part of factory owners. “Major, life-threatening concerns remain outstanding in too many factories and need to be fixed urgently,” concluded a recent Accord update. Workplaces covered by the Accord and Alliance are also just half the picture. More than 1,500 factories, producing for markets such as Russia and Turkey, receive inspections from the Bangladesh government alone...  [F]actory owners complain the brands want it both ways, pressuring factory owners to invest in safety upgrades, but still relentlessly pushing for lower prices. The amount western brands pay for men’s cotton pants, for example, has fallen by an average 13% since Rana Plaza, according to research from Penn State University... Ensuring safe factories stay that way will be the next challenge. Both the Alliance and Accord are trying to work with Bangladesh in some capacity after their terms expire.

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