8 Years After the Rana Plaza Tragedy, Bangladesh’s Garment Workers Are Still Bottom of the Pile

8 Years After the Rana Plaza Tragedy, Bangladesh’s Garment Workers Are Still Bottom of the Pile

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The 2013 Dhaka garment manufacturing unit collapse, killing greater than 1,100 employees and injuring 2,600 extra, is the clothes business’s worst ever industrial incident.

It isn’t just the physique rely, although, that made the collapse of the Rana Plaza, a nine-story constructing within the Bangladeshi industrial metropolis of Savar (close to Dhaka), seize world consideration (briefly) and spur activism all over the world to enhance the remedy of garment employees.

This had been an accident ready to occur. Structural cracks within the constructing had been found the day earlier than. Businesses on the decrease flooring (outlets and the financial institution) have been closed instantly. The 5 garment factories on the higher flooring made their employees preserve working. On the morning of April 24 2013 there was an influence outage. Diesel turbines on the prime of the constructing have been turned on. Then the constructing collapsed.

8 Years After the Rana Plaza Tragedy, Bangladesh's Garment Workers Are Still Bottom of the Pile
Rana plaza constructing which collapsed at Savar, close to Dhaka, Bangladesh April 24, 2013. Photo by Sk Hasan Ali.

The official demise toll is 1,132. But this stuff are by no means clear-cut. That quantity doesn’t embody, for instance, Nowshad Hasan Himu, a volunteer who spent 17 days within the rescue work that pulled greater than 1,000 survivors from the rubble. Some might be solely be freed by amputating limbs. Himu rescued dozens alive, and in addition moved the lifeless. On April 24 2019, the sixth anniversary of the catastrophe, he committed suicide.

He couldn’t neglect. We mustn’t neglect.

Global consideration

The Rana Plaza collapse briefly shone a highlight on the underbelly of the worldwide vogue enterprise, a US$2.4 trillion business that employs about 40 million of the world’s poorest employees, usually in harmful and degrading circumstances. About 4 million of them are in Bangladesh, the second-biggest “prepared made garment” exporter on this planet, after China.

Activist teams resembling Clean Clothes Campaign lobbied for compensation for the victims – many nonetheless suffer from their injuries – and higher circumstances for garment employees usually. For this was no remoted incident. Garment employees routinely died in manufacturing unit fires and confronted different risks.

At least 29 world manufacturers have been recognized as doing enterprise with a number of of the 5 factories within the Rana Plaza constructing.


Each was “a complicit participant within the creation of an setting that finally led to the deaths and maiming of hundreds”, mentioned Clean Clothes Campaign. Yet the issue was far wider than simply these manufacturers. It was a systemic downside. In a way each shopper selecting garments on the premise of most cost-effective worth was complicit.

The business vowed to do higher. Within a month 222 companies signed the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a legally binding settlement meant to make sure garment employees had secure workplaces.

Things have improved. But not sufficient. Eight years on, the elemental issues in world provide chains – the disconnect between income, accountability and accountability – stays.

Compliance a charade

This disconnect was obvious once we interviewed Bangladesh producers and Australian retailer in 2018 as a part of our analysis.

Retailers maintained they have been residing as much as their obligations by solely sourcing clothes from producers complying with the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.

But producers advised us their compliance was usually a charade. As one mentioned:

Changes introduced in after Rana Plaza, resembling limiting the employee extra time hours and availability of a nurse and a childcare employee within the facility, are sometimes solely completed for the day of auditing.

The purpose: to maintain prices low. As one other producer mentioned:

Though we’re complying to the foundations established by the retailer to advertise secure manufacturing practices, worth and high quality nonetheless performs an essential function in getting the orders.

Pocketing the income

Here’s the issue illustrated when it comes to a T-shirt.

According to Clean Clothes Campaign – an organisation backed by 230 unions, non-government organisations and analysis our bodies – just 0.6% of the retail price of a t-shirt goes to the employee. The manufacturing unit proprietor takes 4% as revenue. The model label takes 12%. But the retailer takes 59%.

Clean Clothes Campaign/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

These numbers are, after all, averages. They don’t declare to be the precise revenue break up for each shirt. But they do give a good impression of how the system is weighted. Next time you see a t-shirt for lower than $10, due to this fact, take into consideration how a lot the maker made.

Improving circumstances for employees should definitely contain inside reforms in Bangladesh, each by extra stringent labour and well being and security legal guidelines in addition to regulation and enforcement. But easing the incessant strain positioned by consumers on suppliers to chop prices can also be essential.

Factory operators advised us they wished consumers to insist on higher circumstances for employees, and to pay sufficient to make sure that might occur. They welcomed contracts that stipulating spending cash on safer constructing and better pay.

Economic pressures rising

But it’s the strain to chop prices that has intensified with the COVID disaster.

Between March and June 2020, manufacturers cancelled clothes orders worth billions of dollars to Bangladeshi makers. By September greater than 357,000 of the nation’s 4 million garment employees had misplaced their jobs, and lots of extra have been compelled to simply accept decrease pay. (Total textile exports for 2020 were down nearly 17%, in keeping with the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.)

In November 2020, Oxfam in partnership with Monash University revealed a report elevating “critical questions concerning the dedication of manufacturers to making sure employees of their provide chains are paid residing wages and work in respectable circumstances”.

Based on about 150 surveys and 22 in-depth interviews with business stakeholders, it rated buying practices of Australia’s 10 main vogue retailers.

Overall rating of Australia's top 10 fashion retailers' purchasing decisions, rated from 0 to 4.
Overall score of Australia’s prime 10 vogue retailers’ buying selections, rated from 0 to 4. Oxfam, CC BY-ND.

Overall, producers rated H&M Group one of the best (3 out of 4). Big W, Kmart and Target Australia received 2.5. Best&Less, Cotton On, Inditex and Myer scored 2.

Worst performers have been The Just Group (Just Jeans, Jay Jays, Jacqui E, Peter Alexander, Portmans, Dotti) and Mosaic Brands (Millers, Rockmans, Noni B, Rivers, Katies, Autograph, Crossroads and Beme). These two firms, together with Myer, additionally declined to take part within the analysis.

To clear up the disconnect between income, accountability and accountability, retailers and types should be way more carefully concerned in figuring out and caring about what goes on within the factories they supply from.

This article is republished from The Conversation below a Creative Commons license. Author: Shams Rahman, Professor of Supply Chain Management, RMIT University and Aswini Yadlapalli, Lecturer in Supply Chain Management, RMIT University.

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Cover picture of campaigners on Oxford Street, London calling on retailers to pay up excellent compensation to victims of the Rana Plaza manufacturing unit collapse, and to make sure higher security of their Bangladeshi factories. Photo taken on April 24, 2014 by Trades Union Congress.

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