Today marks four years since the catastrophic Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed over 1100 workers. And before that, 350 garment workers had lost their lives in fires at Pakistan’s Ali Enterprises factory and Bangladesh’s Tazreen Fashions factory.
Michelle Chen at The Nation reports that while some improvements have been made in safety and health conditions, workers’ core rights to organize unions and fight for decent wages and safe working conditions continues to deteriorate.
Rana Plaza and other factory disasters in recent years have spurred some regulatory breakthroughs. International pressure drove some nationwide reforms for factory safety to prevent so-called “death trap” incidents, culminating in a legally binding international factory-safety accord. And minimum wages have been increased incrementally.
But Nomita Nath, president of the Bangladesh Independent Garment Workers Union Federation warns that suppression of workers’ right to organize harms not just their ability to earn a living wage, but also their ability to ensure safe working conditions.
not just a parallel question to the material issues of wages and safety; without the collective power of a union and access to a collective-bargaining and grievance process, workers cannot gain genuine autonomy and hold bosses, or the international industry, accountable.ath says the ability to organize is