Rana Plaza: first anniversary of a disaster

It is one year since more than 1,100 people were killed when the Rana Plaza complex collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Commercial advantages from outsourcing should never be placed above the well-being and safety of workers, says Alex Botha, chief executive of the British Safety Council.

On 24 April 2013, Rana Plaza, an eight-story commercial building collapsed in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. More than 1,100 people died, many of them women, with over 2,500 injured and some 800 children orphaned. The building collapse is considered to be one of the deadliest structural failures in human history.

Though moral arguments about the implications of outsourcing labour to less expensive parts of the world are complex, “what is not complex is that these deaths could have been prevented,” Alex Botha said. “We should remember that people went to work when the building was visibly cracking. It is inexcusable that people were put in this position and it simply should never have happened.

“Today is a sombre day. Those who benefit from outsourcing in this way have a moral duty to exercise their responsibility and ensure that those affected by this disaster are taken care of.  So far, regrettably, only a third of the £24 million pledged for compensation has been raised. Those who outsource need to regularly audit their suppliers to ensure that working standards are being adhered to and working conditions are at an acceptable level.

“The Bangladeshi government has a responsibility too to ensure that those who operate business undertakings are held accountable and that the regulatory agencies have the necessary powers and resources to ensure compliance. 

“But worker protection needs to improve and the pace of change needs to speed up. This should never happen again and any commercial advantage from outsourcing should never be placed above the well-being and safety of workers.”

“As well as making urgent improvements to the conditions affecting those manufacturing the garments, educating consumers about the phenomena of ‘fast fashion’ is important. That is why the British Safety Council is supporting the Fashion Revolution campaign. We need to understand more about how our clothes are made and this campaign - to link the cotton farmer, the dyer and the seamstress with the consumer - offers an opportunity to improve working conditions. We will be playing an active part in promoting and publicising the campaign.”

Fashion Revolution

Fashion Revolution is a new campaign to change the way we think about shopping. Backed by MPs including the shadow consumer minister, Stella Creasy, and Labour's international development spokeswoman, Alison McGovern, as well as fashion-trade insiders such as Mary Portas and Caryn Franklin, the campaign was set up by Carry Somers, an ethical-trade entrepreneur. It aims to build connections throughout the fashion supply chain, linking the cotton farmer, the dyer and the seamstress with the consumer.

See http://fashionrevolution.org for all the information, fact-sheets, Twitter and Facebook links you need to get involved. 
Photograph by Bangladesh Federation of Workers’ Solidarity​.