Rana Plaza’s 10th anniversary
The Rana Plaza disaster was an industrial tragedy that occurred on April 24th, 2013, in Bangladesh. Over 1,100 people, mostly garment workers, lost their lives and thousands were injured when the Rana Plaza building collapsed. This tragedy marks the day that brought a wake-up call for the fashion industry and everyone involved with it, shedding light on the poor working conditions and lack of safety regulations in the global supply chain.
Last week marked the 10th year anniversary of this tragic event, and it serves as a reminder of the need for continued efforts towards improving worker safety and ensuring fair labour practices. Many organisations and initiatives have been launched since the disaster to address these issues, including the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety and the Fashion Revolution movement.
The tenth anniversary of the worst accident in the history of manufacturing is a good time to look at the achievements over those ten years and what more needs to be done, not only in Bangladesh but in the fashion industry worldwide.
The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh
The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh was established in 2013 in response to the Rana Plaza disaster and is a legally binding agreement between international brands and trade unions to improve working conditions and ensure the safety of workers in Bangladesh's garment industry. Some key features of the Accord include:
- Regular safety inspections of factories
- Public reporting of inspection results
- Mandatory repairs and renovations to address safety hazards
- Worker empowerment through safety committees and training programs
- Independent arbitration to resolve disputes
Since its establishment, the Accord has made significant progress in improving safety conditions in the garment industry in Bangladesh. However, there is still work to be done to ensure that all workers are protected and that their rights are respected. The 2013 Accord drew in 220 companies, which led to over 2,000 factory inspections. The result? More than 40,000 initial and follow-up inspections were conducted, exposing a staggering 150,000 safety hazards. Today, 93% of these hazards have been addressed, with 400 factories having fully completed the necessary improvements. As a result, over two million factory workers have benefitted from these efforts.
The 2013 Accord was set to expire in 2021 and since then, there is a new agreement, the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry, which brings the Accord to garment and textile producing countries worldwide.
Although this accord has been a great success so far in getting brands and retailers to take responsibility and actions towards ensuring garment workers safety, more brands need to sign this still: particularly US companies like Levi’s, Gap, Walmart and Amazon who have refused to sign the Accord. The sign-on of brands like these will protect more garment and textile workers from dangerous conditions and will strengthen the push for the Accord’s renewal as it is set to expire in October 2023!
The Pakistan Accord
In 2023, the International Accord, its signatories and other key stakeholders established a new country program in Pakistan called the Pakistan Accord. However, with only 41 signatories, including Aldi, C&A, H&M, Inditex, Kik, Marks & Spencer, Primark, PVH and Zalando, there is a need for further momentum. Recent events have highlighted the urgency of the situation, such as a deadly fire at a Karachi factory, which killed four firefighters and injured 13 workers. The incident occurred due to a short circuit and the factory's location in a heavily congested area, which made it challenging for fire crews to reach the building and fight the fire.
To increase the number of signatories among brands and retailers, Remake and the Clean Clothes Campaign launched the #SignTheAccord campaign, urging 12 critical brands - Amazon, Asda, Columbia Sportswear, Decathlon, Ikea, JCPenney, Kontoor Brands, Levi’s, Target, Tom Tailor, Urbn, and Walmart - to sign the accord, which is essential for its success in the country.
What needs to be done
Despite tremendous progress, there are still several areas that require attention, particularly in the following areas:
- Wages: These remain inadequate, making it difficult to sustain a living. In Bangladesh, for instance, wages have remained stagnant for the past five years, with high inflation exacerbating the situation. Furthermore, workers are often not compensated when companies cancel their orders, as was the case during the pandemic.
- Gender-based violence: This is a significant issue in the workplace, according to supporting partner organisations in Bangladesh. To address this, workers must be better protected through reliable grievance mechanisms and legal counsel.
- Environmental aspect: The textile industry has a significant impact on the climate and workers' health. As a result, there must be binding rules in place to protect the environment and the climate through agreements and laws.
As consumers, we can also play a role in promoting ethical and sustainable fashion by supporting brands that prioritise worker safety and fair labour practices and by advocating for change in the industry. Let us take a moment to remember the lives lost in the Rana Plaza disaster and continue to work towards a more just and responsible fashion industry.
[info sourced on fashionunited.uk and theguardian.com
All images sourced on canva.com]