• Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Rana Plaza disaster marked by Oxford Street demo

Star Online Report
The Rana Plaza factory collapse on April 24, 2013 was the worst garment disaster in history, leaving 1,131 dead and many hundreds with devastating injuries. Photo: Star
The Rana Plaza factory collapse on April 24, 2013 was the worst garment disaster in history, leaving 1,135 dead and many hundreds with devastating injuries. Photo: Star

Campaigners are planning to mark the anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster by forming a human chain on London's busiest shopping street while urging retailers to be more transparent about their supply chains, according to the Guardian report.

Trade union activists will join pressure groups as part of an international day of action, one year after 1,135 workers died at a clothing factory building in Bangladesh. Campaigners including Labour Behind the Label, War on Want and Made in Europe believe the international response to the incident has been underwhelming, with a compensation fund for victims of the disaster remaining less than half full.

Alongside the formation of a human chain on Oxford Street, the Unison union is calling on members to observe a minute's silence at 11:38am, while ethical fashion industry players are backing a Fashion Revolution Day. Shoppers are being asked to put pressure on stores to be more transparent about supply chains by using social media to ask "who made my clothes?".

A long-term compensation pot has raised only $15m (£9m) of a hoped-for $40m, despite the efforts of the UN's International Labour Organisation. Fewer than half the brands linked to clothes-making at the building have donated to the fund, despite calls for all retailers linked to Bangladesh to contribute. Italy's Benetton and the UK's Matalan say they prefer to back alternative assistance programmes for victims, while the likes of France's Auchan argue that they had no authorised production in the building at the time of its collapse and so have contributed nothing towards compensation.

Other brands have donated only token amounts to the scheme with Asda's owner Walmart, for example, offering only about $1m compared to more than $8m from the UK's Primark.

"We urge all the brands that have been working in Bangladesh to contribute to the fund with a considerable sum. They share a collective responsibility for this profoundly unsustainable production model and its hazards, this model that we are now about to change," said Jyrki Raina, of international union IndustriALL.

International development minister Alan Duncan has called on British businesses to act as a "force for good" in Bangladesh.

He said: "One year on, we all need to ask ourselves if we are doing everything we can, and this includes British businesses. They have the power to bring about profound and positive change, whether by paying into the compensation fund or making their supply chain even more transparent."

The response to the disaster includes the development of three factory safety initiatives in Bangladesh including the Bangladesh Accord for Fire and Building Safety which backed by more than 150 brands.

It has inspected more than 200 factories and at least eight have been closed for repairs because of structural issues. But The Ethical Trading Initiative, a British body backed by brands including Marks & Spencer and Primark, said more action was needed including higher trade union membership to enable workers to exercise their fundamental rights in Bangladesh.
"There is a need for increased momentum. Unsafe factories must be urgently identified and repaired, so that people can enjoy safe working conditions," the group said in a statement.

Published: 11:16 am Thursday, April 24, 2014

Last modified: 8:59 pm Thursday, April 24, 2014

TAGS: Bangladesh Rana Plaza Oxford Street Fashion Revolution Day

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