The Trades Union Congress (TUC) is pressing employers to support survivors and families of the victims of the Rana Plaza tragedy today (24 April 2014), a year on from the Bangladesh factory collapse where almost 1,200 workers – mostly young women – were killed.
The Rana Plaza textile factory collapse was the worst industrial disaster in Bangladesh’s history. The TUC believes the tragedy was caused by workers not having a voice at work, as staff were too afraid to speak up about safety concerns despite cracks being visible on the building.
Following the disaster, international trade unions created a historic agreement on factory safety called the Accord, which has now been signed by more than 150 companies that employ factory workers. The Accord ensures that 1,619 factories in Bangladesh have safety inspections and work with unions to correct safety hazards.
However, the TUC is concerned that many UK companies who use suppliers from Bangladesh are yet to pay into the Rana Plaza Trust Fund which was established for the victims of the collapse and their families. The target was to raise £24 million, but 12 months on from the disaster, £14.9 million is still outstanding.
The TUC also fears that problems with Bangladesh labour law mean that workers are still facing significant repression. It says the UK government must lobby the Bangladesh government to allow freedom of association so workers can join unions, take collective action and voice concerns about health and safety without fear of reprisals.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The appalling loss of life in the Rana Plaza disaster proved that Bangladesh had a long way to go to tackle the textile industry’s terrible record on health and safety and workers’ rights.
“It’s important that the Accord has now been signed by over 150 companies and trade unions in Bangladesh are finally being involved in making factories safer. But it is shameful that many of our companies sourcing from Rana Plaza have still not paid into the fund to help victims and their families."
“Every company using suppliers from Bangladesh should donate an appropriate sum to the fund so that, one year on from this horrific event, workers and their families can finally start to rebuild their lives”, she said.