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
4 thoughts on “Rana Plaza: Improvement for Garment Workers after Four Years?”
Of course, the companies doing best are those who signed the union-fashioned Accord. The (US) rump that opted for the transparency-lite Walmart alternative are those failing. Electing for auditing over action was always going to fail.
It was the Accord that this month that gave us a concrete example – literally and metaphorically – of the role of union representation in allowing workers to say no to a possible worse-than-Rana collapse.
Fixing safety issues costs money and means less profit. It always, always comes down to money. And greed. Someone is always filling their pockets while the other nameless workers suffer. Have you ever read “The third man”? There is the scene at the Ferris wheel where Harry compares the people to ants: “You know, I never feel comfortable on these sort of things. Victims? Don’t be melodramatic. Look down there. Tell me. Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever? If I offered you twenty thousand pounds for every dot that stopped, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money, or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spare?” Too many care too little for others.
It does not matter which country we are talking about. Just like in a company, it has to start at the top with a strong commitment. What that means for OSHA or any other regulatory institution is that there needs to be enforcement.
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