10 years ago on the 24th of April, a 8 storey commercial building called Rana Plaza on the outskirts of Dhaka came crashing down on killing 1,138 people in the factories housed in the building and many thousands injured as well. This tragedy devastated the lives of thousands of families, bringing world wide attention to deathtrap workplaces and rampant exploitation in the garment industry.
The incident brought up major issues like factory safety; freedom of association; wages; employment injury insurance and legal obligations on companies. On factory safety, the Bangladesh Accord was launched in May 2013 as the first independent and legally binding agreement between brands and trade unions to work towards a safe garment and textile industry bringing improvements to over 1500 factories. With Freedom of Association, despite changes to labour law and an initial spike in unionisation in the first years after the collapse, freedom of association has again come under severe pressure in Bangladesh. With wages, minimum wages in the garment sector in Bangladesh have been reviewed every five years since Rana Plaza collapse, they remain at levels keeping workers in poverty at 8,000 BDT per month when a living income for a family in Bangladesh is said to stand at 36,700 takas. As for employment injury insurance, some $30 million dollars was paid in compensation to victims after 3 years of consumer campaign pressure but a more payment system of employment injury compensation is needed. And finally the EU is moving towards a Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive on legal obligations on companies to respect human rights. Some like France, Germany, Norway have brought strong national legislation to build strong legal frameworks for corporate accountability unlike the UK.
Whilst all this is happening, we will not forget the victims of Rana Plaza on this 10th anniversary. So l was glad to see on the streets of London, many who “remember the dead and fight for the living”