Rana Plaza tragedy – 4 years on
Rana Plaza collapsed 4 years ago today on 24 April 2013, killing 1,138 Bangladeshi garment workers and injuring many thousands more.
The fourth anniversary of the tragedy marks an opportunity to take stock of the distance we’ve travelled along the road to safe factories and respect for the rights of workers in Bangladesh.
The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh was signed by UNI Global Union and IndustriALL Global Union, along with NGOs and Bangladeshi unions, in the aftermath of Rana Plaza. A groundbreaking agreement, it aimed to ensure safe work places and a sustainable industry, and to establish a new model for supply chain responsibility.
On the whole, the agreement and its implementation have been historic achievements.
There is no question that the factories are now safer than they were four years ago. Over 1500 factories employing about two million workers have been inspected by an independent team of safety engineers under the terms of the Accord. These inspections have identified over 100,000 safety violations and over 70,000 of these have been corrected.
But significant problems remain. There are nearly 30,000 problems which have not been repaired, and most factories are far beyond the deadlines established by the Accord. Some of the 217 brands which have signed the Accord are clearly not doing enough to ensure that the factories are fixed. UNI and IndustriALL have been working within the Accord to adopt policies to speed up the improvements and are also using the enforcement mechanisms under the binding Accord to bring pressure on the lagging brands.
As Christy Hoffman, UNI Deputy General Secretary explained, “The global unions will continue to insist that all of the problems already identified must be corrected before the end of the Accord in 2018. But every worker deserves a safe workplace and the Bangladeshi government is not ready to take over the responsibility to guarantee this. In order to make sure that this critical work continues, UNI and IndustriALL have begun negotiating a new Accord with brands to take us beyond 2018 and we are hopeful that these negotiations will conclude soon.”
According to Hoffman, the global unions are also urging the government and employers to change direction on respect for the right to organize, without which no factory will ever be truly safe. “Both the brands and the government are responsible for some of the deplorable actions taken against trade unionists, especially those in the recent past. This approach to industrial relations is not consistent with a sustainable industry and can’t be tolerated,” Hoffman added.