Today is the five-year commemoration of the Rana Plaza building collapse in Dhaka. It is considered to be the deadliest garment-factory accident in history. 1,137 lost their lives and about 2,500 were injured. Trade Union leader Nazma Aktar who recently visited Responsible Business Advisors (RBA) in Oslo together with Mr Hasanat from Bangladesh Dep of Labour and Mr Chowdhury from Bangladesh Employers Federation, gives us a fresh update about improvements and remaining challenges.
-The Rana Plaza collapse was horrible – first and foremost for the workers who lost their lives, the ones who were injured, and all the affected families. It has become a symbol for harsh working conditions in the textile industry, says Nazma, and continues:
-Although some of us have worked hard to improve factory working conditions long before the tragedy, Rana Plaza was a wake-up call for the entire textile industry – in Bangladesh and internationally.
-We have achieved a lot since the tragedy, especially in fire and building safety. I am personally proud to have established trade unions in many factories. But it is a long way before all the around 5,000 factories in Bangladesh have a trade union and real social dialogue in the workplace.
Trade Union leader Nazma Aktar
Upon the question of remaining challenges, Nazma responds quickly and energetically:
-Oh, there are still so many challenges. That workers are not hindered in organizing themselves is of course very important. Factory owners must adhere to local legislation. Brands and retailers also have a great responsibility. They should stop sourcing through agents, but rather buy directly and disclose the factories they buy from. Buyers should also assess the adverse impact of their purchasing practices, and take actions to improve them. If trade is not fair, workers and environment are the losers, states Nazma firmly.
As a message to the consumers, Nazma says: -We want consumers to continue buying garments from our country, but they should know about people’s working and living conditions. They must understand that someone pays the price for their cheap clothes, Nazma ends.