Sixth anniversary of Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh

"The building after the disaster" by rijan is licensed under CC BY 2.0

24 April 2019 is the sixth anniversary of the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh that crushed 1,134 people to death 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 worst industrial accidents to date.

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

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23 May 2019

UK: Petition calls on govt. to create modern slavery database to increase transparency of brands' efforts to tackle modern slavery in fashion industry

Author: Traidcraft & Fashion Revolution

"Who made my clothes? Are brands in Britain playing by the rules?" April 2019

Six years ago the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed... Death is the most extreme danger workers in the clothing industry face but poor pay and conditions remain widespread today...

Many overseas workers supplying well-known British companies toil in conditions of ‘modern slavery’ – owned or controlled by an ‘employer’ or forced to work. That’s one reason the British Parliament passed the Modern Slavery Act in 2015: to require big brands to explain what they are doing to tackle modern slavery in their supply chains. 

The trouble is: the British Government doesn’t keep a list of who is doing what. So if we want to find out whether brands in Britain are playing by the rules, the truth is: the Government won’t help us. 

But, together, we can make the Government take responsibility for enforcing its own law...

Sign the petition.

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15 May 2019

Bangladesh: Report finds Accord's independent complaint mechanism protects workers & allows for access to remedy

Author: International Labor Rights Forum

"Calling for Remedy", 15 May 2019

The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh... has an accessible, rights-based and confidential complaint mechanism, which functions in tandem with the independent inspectorate...

This report analyzes the structure and procedures of the Accord’s complaint mechanism, worker and union complaints received by Accord staff, Accord responses, and resolutions reached. Additionally, it draws on worker interviews... [W]e find that the Accord’s complaint mechanism:

  • Is an independent and responsive avenue through which garment workers in Bangladesh are regularly raising concerns of safety violations.
  • Provides responsive and meaningful action and is successful at securing remediation...
  • Ensures that workers are able to exercise their right to refuse dangerous work.
  • Protects workers from retaliation.
  • Provides apparel brands and retailers with knowledge of factory-level issues that would otherwise go undetected and unreported, allowing them to remediate.
  • Provides transparency by publicly reporting on all complaints received, with details about their current status and resolution.
  • Reduces potential gender bias in worker access...

An essential policy of the Accord complaint system is a commitment... to always take action when retaliation against workers who raise health and safety concerns is brought to its attention. Without intervention mandated by the Accord, many workers who were fired after raising the alarm over risks and hazards they perceive would not have been rehired...

The success of the Accord’s independent complaint mechanism is one of several reasons why the work of the Accord should be allowed to continue until credible alternatives for all aspects of its work are in place.

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1 May 2019

Commentary: On International Worker's Day we must recognise individual consumption is preventing us from showing effective collective solidarity with garment workers

Author: Mayisha Begum, Gal-dem

"International Worker’s Day marks six years of struggle by garment workers in Bangladesh", 1 May 2019

...The proximity of the Rana Plaza disaster anniversary to International Worker’s Day feels starkly symbolic of the disturbingly similar reality faced by workers both in the 19th Century, and in 2019... [R]esearch and investigation into “fast fashion” suggests that the exploitation of garment workers by brands has intensified...

[I]n Bangladesh in December 2018, after... protest[s] to demand a minimum wage, at least 65 workers were arrested over baseless charges, and as many as 11,600 workers were fired without legal justification...

...When workers who were affected by the Rana Plaza factory collapse failed to receive adequate support... survivors underwent a hunger strike, and issued a set of 11 demands to the government... [L]ast week one of the volunteers involved in the Rana Plaza rescue mission killed himself... further indicating the lack of support for survivors...

We are sold the idea that through demanding more ethically produced clothes, we can convince corporations to change their purchasing practices... [This] promotes an individualistic, neoliberal form of activism, putting the responsibility of change on the consumers instead of the corporations... Ethical consumption also depoliticises exploitation...

A sustainable response... requires... re-centring resources around the formation of movements that actively show collective solidarity with workers. Successful campaigns in the garment industry include those in which workers lead and develop a sustained, local movement on the ground, while activists in the Global North simply provide a supporting role, utilising their position to demand change on the side of brands...

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24 April 2019

Campaign calls on Primark to protect workers in Bangladesh

Author: Labour Behind the Label

"Tell Primark to stop the fear and support worker safety and rights", April 2019

427 workers from Primark suppliers in Bangladesh lost their jobs after taking part in largely peaceful protests to dispute the sub-poverty minimum wage which is being paid in Bangladesh.  382 are now facing false charges bought by factory owners, and are unable to find other jobs due to systematic blacklistingYet fast-fashion giant Primark has made no indication that it is willing to act to protect workers in Bangladesh...

Primark have not publicly disputed the arrests and the dismissals, or shown any indication that they are demanding that suppliers reinstate workers and pay compensation...

Primark need to prioritise workers’ rights and the need for safe factories, and must act. Sign the petition to call on them to stop the repression at their suppliers and publicly support factory safety.

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24 April 2019

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

Author: Zobaida Nasreen, Daily Star (Bangladesh)

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.

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24 April 2019

Fashion Transparency Index 2019 ranks 200 brands: Adidas, Reebok and Patagonia top scoring but "shockingly" little information disclosed on purchasing practices

Author: Fashion Revolution

The results aren’t that surprising: the average score for all 200 brands and retailers is 21% out of 250 possible points, proving that there is still a lot of work to be done. However, we are seeing brands and retailers making moves towards greater transparency....The highest scoring brands this year are Adidas, Reebok and Patagonia, who each score 64% of the 250 possible points. No major brands score above 70%...The good news is that more brands and retailers are disclosing their suppliers than they were three years ago. 70 out of the 200 major fashion brands we reviewed are publishing a list of their first-tier manufacturers, where clothes are cut, sewn and finished. 38 brands are disclosing their processing facilities, where ginning and spinning, wet processing, embroidering, printing, dyeing and laundering typically takes place.10 brands are disclosing some of the facilities or farms supplying their fibres such as viscose, cotton and wool. This progress is encouraging, but there is still so much we don’t know about the people who make our clothes, from farm to retail.

See full report here.

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24 April 2019

No justice yet for Rana Plaza tragedy

Author: Rashad Ahamad and Robiul Islam, NewAge Bangladesh

No trial of collapsed Rana Plaza owner Sohel Rana took place in six years since the disaster killed 1,138 people, mostly female apparel workers, and injured over 2,400 at Savar on April 24, 2013. The families of the deceased, injured people and workers who suffered from the worst industrial accident of the world were still waiting for justice as hardly any progress was made in the trial of 14 cases filed in this connection.
Sohel Rana, local Awami Juba League leader at Savar, his parents Abdul Khaleque and Marzina Begum and five apparel factory owners were named in 14 the cases, including 11 filed with the Labour Court. Although Sohel Rana and 40 others were charged on July 18, 2016 in a case filed on murder charge, none of the 594 prosecution witnesses was examined yet...

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24 April 2019

Why transparency is key to transforming the fashion industry

Author: IndustriALL

Six years after Rana Plaza, the deadliest disaster in the garment industry, independent and transparent fire and building inspections by the Bangladesh Accord have transformed the safety of thousands of garment factories in the country, writes Jenny Holdcroft, assistant general secretary, IndustriALL Global Union. Brands produce a lot of information about what they’re doing to improve conditions in their supply chains, but it’s only through transparency that this information can be verified. Transparency allows us to assess whether the strategies companies are using are effective, for example, checking to see if living wage strategies actually result in higher wages for workers. This year’s Transparency Index produced by Fashion Revolution shows that just 17 per cent of brands reveal how they’re implementing their approach to paying living wages to workers in their supply chains, and only 4 per cent report on their progress.With increased transparency, we can make the connection between corporate social responsibility policies and their impact on the ground. Extending transparency to cover purchasing practices is an essential next step. Whatever social responsibility measures a company is taking, these can be undermined by its own buying practices. There’s no point in brands saying they support decent working hours if they expect suppliers to meet increasingly tight lead times.

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23 April 2019

Amidst Wave of Deadly Fires, Bangladesh Government Threatens to Expel the Only Credible Building Safety Programme in the Country and Further Suppress Workers’ Rights

Author: Clean Clothes Campaign

On the sixth anniversary of the Rana Plaza building collapse, labour rights groups are calling on the government of Bangladesh to cease attempts to expel the Accord on Fire and Building Safety from Bangladesh and to urgently increase safety efforts for the buildings currently under the government’s oversight, which include tens of thousands of factories across all industries. Over the past two months, at least 95 people have died in preventable fires in buildings that were within the monitoring purview of the government of Bangladesh. The safety crisis is indisputable. An investigation by the Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence showed 97% of the 3,786 buildings surveyed in Dhaka to be “risky” or “extremely risky.” The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh is an enforceable agreement signed by apparel brands and trade unions three weeks after the Rana Plaza building collapse ...The Accord provides independent safety inspections, transparent remediation protocols, as well a worker complaint mechanism and training. As a result, unprecedented safety improvements have been made to factories across the country. Yet, the government and the factory owners’ association are trying to expel the Accord from the country, threatening the safety of millions of workers. A hearing on 19 May in the Appellate Court under Bangladesh’s Supreme Court could require the Accord to close its Dhaka office and operations without taking into account whether national agencies would be ready to take up the work...

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23 April 2019

Bangladesh: Report finds mass firings, violence & arrests following minimum wage protests 'unlawful'

Author: Workers Rights Consortium

"Banning Hope: Bangladesh Garment Workers Seeking a Dollar an Hour Face Mass Firings, Violence, and False Arrests", April 2019

The government and apparel factory owners in Bangladesh have carried out a brutal crackdown on garment workers in retaliation for... protests against the country’s extremely low minimum wage... This report documents – via interviews with more than a hundred workers and extensive documentary research – that:

• The wage protests in December of 2018 were largely peaceful;

• The response by government security forces was characterized by indiscriminate use of physical force...

• Arrests of, and criminal charges against, 65 workers were driven by demonstrably baseless complaints from managers of 30 factories, producing for a long list of well-known brands and retailers;

• Some workers were charged based on alleged acts that took place miles away from their actual workplaces and in which the workers cannot possibly have taken part;

• The mass firings, of as many as 11,600 workers, did not have valid grounds under the country’s labor law...

• Rather than terminating individual workers for documented violations... factory managers fired workers en masse, with no effort to credibly demonstrate cause, as a means of collective punishment of workers for their decision to participate in protests...

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