Rana Plaza Anniversary - An example of the consequences of unethical fashion

8-year Rana Plaza anniversary

This Saturday (24 April) marks eight years since the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed. On 24 April 2013, the building structure in Dhaka’s outskirt Savar fell to pieces, killing 1134 workers that were sewing clothes for fast fashion giants such as Primark, Benetton,  and Walmart. Another 2600 people were injured, many of them permanently. 


The collapsed Rana Plaza building. [Source: fashionunited.uk]

What happened?

The day before the collapse, large structural cracks had been discovered in the eight-storey building. The shops and bank on the lower floors of the Plaza were immediately closed, evacuated and warnings were issued to avoid using the building. However, these warnings were ignored by the garment factory owners on the upper floors. The next morning, workers expressed their fears and begged not to be sent into the building. Tragically, they were threatened by managers and told that they would lose their monthly pay if they didn’t enter the Plaza for work that day. Having no other choice, more than 2000 workers entered the unstable building. Before 9am, the floors began to vanish and the entire building collapsed within 90 seconds, burying thousands of workers under rubble and machinery. Some of the survivors were trapped for hours or even days before they were rescued. Most of the killed and injured workers were women and their children in the nursery facilities. Their monthly pay was around £50 a month, less than the cost of a pair of the trousers they were assembling for sale in Europe and the US. 
It was later found out that the upper floors of the building were built illegally without a permit and were unfit for the weight and vibrations of factory machinery.

What has changed since?

The collapse of Rana Plaza brought unprecedented attention to the unethical working conditions in the garment industry. The world woke up to the poor labour conditions that make the fast fashion system work. The public interest and media attention resulted in immense political pressure and, since 2013, some changes have been made. However, many advocates of fair fashion are not satisfied with the actions taken so far. For example, families of the Rana Plaza victims were only compensated £200 from Primark if they could provide DNA evidence of their relative’s death in the collapse, which proved extremely difficult. 


Primark was one of the big fashion brands that workers were producing garments for in the factory in Bangladesh. [Source: Unsplash/Jakob Pfalz]

As we remember this horrific tragedy, we would like to remind you that you, as a consumer, have the power to change the system. We urge you to please watch ‘The True Cost’, a free documentary available on Youtube. Educate yourself on fast fashion and the incredible damage it causes to workers and our planet. We have listed some initial resources under this post for you to start with. Please remember to shop consciously and think about the consequences. 

Resources:

Sources:

https://cleanclothes.org/campaigns/past/rana-plaza

https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/geip/WCMS_614394/lang--en/index.htm

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/apr/24/bangladeshi-police-target-garment-workers-union-rana-plaza-five-years-on

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/24/style/survivors-of-rana-plaza-disaster.html

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/rana-plaza-factory-disaster-anniversary-what-happened-fashion-a9478126.html

https://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2014/04/26/these-retailers-involved-in-bangladesh-factory-disaster-have-yet-to-compensate-victims/