Has anything changed since then?
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh, one of the deadliest industrial accidents in history, which resulted in the death of over 1,300 garment factory workers and injured thousands more .
A day to remind us: Our clothes are sewn by a human being! It is not acceptable that this person has to work under unsafe conditions. It is not acceptable that this person is being exploited. It is not acceptable that this person may not be able to provide for their family, all because we want to buy new clothes every season.
This tragedy shed light on the appalling working conditions in the textile industry and inspired a global movement to improve labor standards and workers’ rights.
What has changed since then?
In response to the disaster, various international organizations and brands, such as the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, were established to address systemic issues in the textile industry as well as to ensure that workers’ rights were respected and working conditions improved .
Factory owners complain that on the one hand the brands want the factory owners to invest in safety upgrades, and on the other hand are still pushing for lower prices . Over the last years the minimum wage has increased by 51 percent, but this still is not enough for garment workers to meet their basic needs .
The fast fashion industry is still a chain of human misery and more change is still urgently needed. According to the ILO, poor working conditions, including low wages, long working hours, insufficient safety measures, and gender-based violence, still exist .
Politically, progress has been made with the European Commission presenting a proposal for a Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence on 23 February 2022 to make companies liable for human rights violations. This will affect companies that are based in the EU or sell their products in the EU. The proposal aims to create responsibility for compliance with human rights standards along the entire supply chain and requires companies to comply with due diligence requirements for environmental and climate protection .
Bangladesh itself also needs to take action. The ILO has called on the government to review the national labor law to remove barriers to union registration and to create a favorable environment for union activity and collective bargaining, which currently doesn’t exist .
In conclusion, the Rana Plaza tragedy served as a wake-up call for the textile industry, and while progress has been made over the past decade, there is still much work to be done to ensure that workers’ rights are respected and that all workers in the textile industry are able to work in safe and fair conditions.
It is crucial that governments, international organizations, and brands work together to build a more equitable textile industry for all workers.
Taking responsibility together for human rights
You may be wondering what YOU can do now? Be part of the change instead of just talking about it! Raise your voice now, sign and share the „Good Clothes, Fair Pay“ EU-campaign and demand living wages in the textile industry:
When can we really talk about a Fashion revolution?
 Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. (2018). Safe Workplaces.
 The Guardian. Rana Plaza, five ears on: safety of worker hangs in balance in Bangladesh.
 Fair Wear. (2018). Bangladesh raises minimum wages – is it enough?.
 International Labor Organization. (2022). Asia still ‘garment factory of the world’ yet faces numerous challenges as industry evolves.
 Business & Human Rights. (2022). EU supply chain law initiative.
 International Labor Organization. (2022). Report by the Government of Bangladesh on progress made on the implementation of the road map taken to address all outstanding issues mentioned in the complaint concerning alleged non-observance of Conventions Nos 81, 87 and 98.
The picture on top of the page shows a textile factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Photo by NaZemi, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Thank-you, Natalie, for this insightful piece and the necessary reminder that some people never learn. I regret that as a non-European citizen my signature on this important petition would apparently not be useful.