World March of Women-Pilipinas Statement on the 2nd anniversary
of the Rana Plaza Tragedy in Bangladesh
WE observe today, April 24, the 2nd anniversary of what is dubbed as the world’s worst industrial accident to hit the garment industry, when the eight-story Rana Plaza building in Dhaka, Bangladesh literally crumbled killing over 1,130 people—more than half were female garment workers employed in several sweatshops there—and injured no less than 2,500.
Indeed, it was a tragedy waiting to happen. The building was designed for offices and small shops only; and the upper four floors were reportedly built or added illegally just to accommodate the garment factories. The building structures were incapable of bearing the weight and vibration of heavy machinery, as well as sustaining about 5,000 workers who work in shifts.
On the day of the tragedy, the women were hesitating to go to work as there were cracks on the pillars and celings, showing signs that the building could collapse anytime. But the workers were forced to go inside. And since the women had no choice, the women workers relented.
The colossal greed and evil complicity of the Rana Plaza property owner and the sweatshop bosses were the immediate triggers of that horrible manmade disaster. But their villainous acts were egged on in no small measure by the global clothing brands, which are aware of the flawed production model, by pressing the locals for higher but cheaper outputs. This avarice for profits and superprofits created workers who are overworked and underpaid, and their workplaces do not follow even the basic occupational health and safety standards. Thus, the garment factories that were inaptly set up in the upper floors of Rana Plaza; and thus, the “business as usual” order of the sweatshop bosses even when they were warned by government inspectors of the increasing cracks in the building, and despite the order to evacuate and close the building one day before the accident.
Two years since the tragedy, the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund endorsed by the ILO still falls short by at least $8.5 million. Benetton’s $1.1 million pledge is not only measly but also terribly late—revealing “the true colors of Benetton”—as it was announced only last week and only after it was pressured by more than 1 million people who signed a petition calling for the Italian label to “donate” to the compensation fund.
In fact, almost all brands linked to Rana Plaza have made paltry “donations,” thus failing to live up to their responsibilities to the victims. Some brands have refused to disclose their “contributions.” Moreover, practically all of them initially denied their dealings with the Bangladeshi sweatshops inside the Rana Plaza.
The World March of Women-Pilipinas, along with the Bangladeshi labor and women’s movements as well as other women activists, trade unionists, and civil society groups throughout the world, including the Clean Clothes Campaign, strongly repeat our calls for the Bangladeshi government to ensure that all the culprits in the Rana Plaza tragedy must be promptly brought to justice. Bangladesh should also enhance and fully enforce its occupational safety and health laws, while boosting the labor and trade union rights of the Bangladeshi workers.
Likewise, we reiterate our belief that the global clothing brands are equally responsible and in fact culpable especially for the deaths, injury and income losses of the garment workers and their families. All global clothing brands—including famous apparel manufacturers Benetton, Bonmarché, The Children’s Place, El Corte Inglés, Joe Fresh, Mango, Matalan, Primark, Walmart, Carrefour, Auchan, KiK and Inditex—that were dealing with the Bangladeshi garment firms in Rana Plaza should provide enough assistance to the victims and their families, and should make certain that they do business only with local companies that truly respect the rights and welfare of workers.
No more Rana Plaza!
No more Third World sweatshops!
Global clothing brands are responsible for Third World sweatshops!
Respect and uphold labor and trade union rights!
Women’s rights and workers’ rights are human rights!
World March of Women-Pilipinas
24 April 2015