Ahead of the ninth anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse on 24 April 2013, general secretary Atle Høie talks about how unions have been able to turn tragedy into a historic agreement to make garment factories safe.
Nine years ago, one of the biggest industrial homicides in the history of garment production happened in Bangladesh. Five thousand workers were forced to go to work in a factory that had clear warning signs of an early collapse. 1,132 workers died and more than 2,500 were injured.
Finally, IndustriALL and UNI Global Unions managed to convince the brands that they had to resume responsibility. We created the Bangladesh Accord. Nine years and thousands of factory inspections later, close to 200,000 potentially deadly traps in 1,600 factories have been fixed. People do not die anymore in an industry which costs hundreds of lives also in the years before Rana Plaza.
Together with 160 brands, we have now created the International Accord. We have agreed to expand the scope of the Accord to more countries than Bangladesh. This means that we will be able to save lives in more countries. It means that millions of more workers will benefit from safer factories.
The universal question remains though, how can we provide for this fantastic opportunity to all textile and garment workers around the world? Garment workers need safe factories. So our work needs to continue. We need to engage more brands to join the Accord, especially in North America, to gain the leverage we need to make this a truly global Accord.
Workers who produce the clothes that we wear deserve a workplace that provides them with a living wage and decent working conditions, not a workplace and threatens to take their lives. Help us expand the Accord even further, and save lives.