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A year on from the collapse of the Rana Plaza building which claimed more than 1,100 lives, has the world since changed for garment workers
In the wake of the worst ever disaster in the global clothing industry there was inevitably much soul-searching. Should blame be directed firmly against the Bangladeshi government for failing to implement basic safety standards in its factories? Was it the fault of factory owners for failing to observe international conventions on safety and worker rights? To what extent were Western brands to blame for sourcing their clothes in the cheapest possible country and placing such demands on factories? And how much were we as consumers willing to pay low prices for our clothing to blame?
What is clear is that collective action was required to prevent another calamity. That said, the Rana tragedy was only the latest in a string of accidents in the Bangladeshi clothing industry, with estimates that a similar number of people to those killed at Rana have actually died in other accidents in recent years. In this anniversary month of the Rana Plaza tragedy, the question is, has that collective action taken place?
Is actually buying garments from Bangladesh is a good thing, and what attracts Western companies to source goods from the country? What are the challenges of being a garment factory owner in Bangladesh at the current state of play of workers’ organisations and trade unions in the country?
The minimum wage in Bangladesh has increased by 80%, a move which the government had been planning for some years but which was finally enacted in the wake of Rana. However given that the cost of living has continued to rise in the country and workers struggle to live on low real wages, does this go far enough?