On April 24, 2013, over 1,134 people were killed and thousands more were injured in the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh.
This building housed garment factories for Benetton, Primark, Matalan, Mango and other major brands. This was the worst accident in a manufacturing facility in recorded history. It graphically exposed the failure of the fashion industry in protecting workers’ rights, and, in its wake, public pressure has forced the industry to unprecedented change. Now we need to ensure the brands responsible for the accident compensate the victims, and all companies act to ensure that accidents like this never happen again.
Over the past three years, the Clean Clothes Campaign has fought side by side with the survivors and families of the victims to demand compensation for their losses. One report provides an overview of the progress made in these areas, and considerable work still needs to be done before we can call the Bangladesh garment industry safe.
The Rana Plaza families and their supporters continue to campaign for compensation, which was excluded from the Arrangement, and for those responsible for the deaths of their loved ones to be held accountable. Numerous legal cases have been filed, but progress is slow. The Clean Clothes Campaign remains committed to supporting these families in their fight for full justice and urges the Bangladeshi courts, the Bangladesh government and the international community to do all they can to ensure a swift conclusion to these cases.
On July 8, 2015 a Bangladesh court ordered that the inspectors charged with involvement in the Rana Plaza disaster be prosecuted. This is a positive step. FIDH and its member organization in Bangladesh, Odhikar, call on the Bangladesh authorities to move ahead with this case and to ensure accountability for all violations of workers’ rights in Bangladesh.
On June 1, 2015, police filed charges against 42 people for having contributed to the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory. Among those charged were the owner of the Rana Plaza complex and government officials. Four of those officials were inspectors, facing charges of mass murder. They had allowed the Rana Plaza building to be transformed into a factory complex and helped the factory owners to secure licenses despite the building not being up to code. However, under Bangladeshi law, government ministries must give their approval in order for their employees to be prosecuted, and in this case the ministries refused to approve the charges against the four inspectors.
On July 8 2015, Senior Judicial Magistrate, Mohammad Shahinur Rahman, ordered the Bangladeshi government to allow the case against the four inspectors to move ahead, and gave the prosecution until August 18 to resubmit the charges against the inspectors. This decision by the court is an important step towards ending impunity for violations of workers’ rights and ensuring that victims of the Rana Plaza disaster are given some form of justice. However, while this decision contributes to accountability and rule of law in Bangladesh, violations of workers rights are still rarely investigated or prosecuted.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) expressly called on the government of Bangladesh – the second world’s biggest exporter of clothing after China – to hold manufacturers and distributors liable for their omissions and neglect. Clothing brands and their international clients were also called on to shoulder their own responsibilities for improving working, health and safety conditions.
But have these words turned into deeds or was the outrage just a knee-jerk emotional response that has faded with time?
The government should address five important issues urgently to bring justice to the victims of the Rana Plaza building collapse, an economist said yesterday. They need to punish persons responsible for the collapse, re-employ the survivors, pay for any medical treatment, compensate the families of the victims, and find out what happened to the missing workers, said Debapriya Bhattacharya, distinguished fellow of the Centre for Policy Dialogue.
About the Author
Paul P. Saha is a professional consultant who actively serves 300 government registered NGOs in Bangladesh. The last 30 years, he has been effectively and successfully showing his extraordinary contribution in preservation of human rights to the disadvantaged and vulnerable girls and women.