How you can support workers and their families involved in fires and building collapses in Bangladesh
By now, most people are aware of the tragedy that unfolded in Bangladesh a year ago today when the Rana Plaza building collapsed and 1,138 men and women workers lost their lives and a further 2,500 were injured. The day before, large cracks had been found in the building, but workers were forced to return to work, despite concerns for their safety. It was getting towards the end of the month and workers were told that if they did not work, they would not receive their pay packets.
Unfortunately, this is an all too familiar tragedy, workers have been losing their lives, suffering horrendous burns or otherwise maimed producing the various global fashion labels we all love to wear. More than 1,800 men and women have died in garment factory fires or building collapses in the past 10 years in Bangladesh – this situation is avoidable.
“Over 1,000 people had to be killed to get 150 companies to sign onto the Bangladesh fire and safety accord” says Kalpona. The Bangladesh Fire and Safety Accord is a legally-binding agreement, which mandates independent factory fire and structural inspections, and prompt repairs.
So where do Australian retailers fit into this picture? According to Daisy Gardener, Fair trade and Private Sector Policy Advisor at Oxfam Australia, “While most major clothing companies in Australia have signed up to the legally binding Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord, The Just Group and Best&Less are still out in the cold.”
Kmart was first to sign the accord, followed by Target, Cotton On Group, Forever New, Specialty Fashion Group (Rivers, Katies), Woolworths (Big W), Pretty Girl Fashion (Rockmans) and Pacific Brands (Bonds, Berlei).
A year after the collapse, Best&Less and the Just Group, owner of popular brands Just Jeans and Jay Jays, are still resisting.
“The Just Group and Best&Less need to join global brands in signing on to the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord to help ensure that Bangladeshi workers are no longer forced to risk their lives for fashion.”
Organisations such as the Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity Centre, where Kalpona is the CEO support workers who have survived terrible tragedies such as the Rana Plaza collapse and the families of those who have been killed. One way they do this is raising awareness in developed countries of the conditions under which garments are produced in Bangladesh. Advocating not for a boycott, because this hurts workers, but to encourage people to put pressure on brands to improve workplace conditons. They also pressure brands who source from factories in Bangladesh to disclose where their clothes are made to allow for third party monitoring and to ensure safe workplaces, jobs with dignity that pay reasonable wages and conditions and the right for workers to form and join unions.
Watch this video to learn more about the Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity Centre and how to support them.
Photo Credit: Nicola Bailey/ActionAid