On Rana Plaza anniversary, remembrance of what was lost and renewal of the fight for safer jobs
On the five-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster that killed 1,134 garment workers, UNI Global Union is asking affiliates and activists to remember the lives lost and irreparably harmed by the tragedy.
UNI is also renewing its call for the remaining brands with production in Bangladesh to sign the 2018 Transition Accord. This agreement takes over the work of the original Bangladesh Accord when it expires in May. The 2018 Accord will ensure that work continues to improve factory safety – the remediation progress rate across all currently covered Accord factories is 84 per cent.
UNI Deputy General Secretary Christy Hoffman said, “It would be irresponsible to abandon the progress that the Accord has made. The Accord’s work is not over, and many major brands require the renewal of the Accord to maintain their business relationships in Bangladesh, until the Accord work can be taken over by a credible national body.”
The original Accord, signed by IndustriALL Global Union, UNI Global Union and 222 apparel brands, was established as a five-year agreement and was put in place in the weeks after the Rana Plaza collapse. The Accord safety programme has saved lives and dramatically improved garment factory safety in Bangladesh.
So far, more than 150 global brands have signed the new 2018 Accord, covering more than 1,300 factories and approximately two million workers.
IndustriALL Global Union Assistant General Secretary, Jenny Holdcroft, stated, “Brands that don’t sign the 2018 Accord are getting a free ride from the brands that do, benefiting from being able to source from safer factories without contributing to the joint effort. Support for the Accord is critical while there is still no effective national regulatory body in place that can guarantee factory safety.”
“Rather than seeing companies leave, we wanted to see the industry cleaned up,” said Scott Nova, executive director of the non-profit Workers Rights Consortium told the FT. “It’s been slower than we wanted. Many factories still have work left to do. But it’s a radically safer environment for 2.7 million workers.”
“The Rana Plaza collapse has shown that the traditional audits have failed workers, and that in the absence of a credible and accountable alternative, the continuation of the legally-binding Accord is needed to prevent another disaster,” said Judy Gearhart, Executive Director of the International Labor Rights Forum. “This should be acknowledged by brands that have not yet renewed their commitment to the 2018 Transition Accord and those that were part of the Alliance and followed by immediate action to join the Accord.”
Ineke Zeldenrust, International Coordinator at Clean Clothes Campaign, adds: “It is vital that existing plans to create an employment injury insurance system in Bangladesh are sped up, to ensure that if factory incidents do happen workers can count on a reliable system to provide them with compensation.”
The 2018 Transition Accord recognizes the importance of Freedom of Association in ensuring workers have a genuine say in protecting their own safety.