Broken stitches

April 25, 2014 - 5:48:46 am

Bangladesh textile workers struggle for compensation and better working conditions a year after the Rana Plaza collapse.


European capitals were yesterday seen staging protests in solidarity with workers thousands of miles away — in impoverished Bangladesh. A shopping district of Belgian capital Brussels saw models walk the ramp as activists shrouded in white acted like corpses of the hundreds of textile workers killed last year in a building collapse. On the same day, at the site of the disaster near the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, some relatives of workers broke down in tears and others collapsed when they were allowed to go near the rubble of the collapsed structure for the first time in a year.  On the first anniversary of the disaster, which saw more than 1,100 workers killed and over two thousand injured, Bangladesh was heaving with protests. More than 150 workers are missing a year after the giant building complex came down over thousands of workers running sewing machines to fashion out garments with labels of global fashion giants. Many protesting relatives of missing workers were carrying pictures of their loved ones — still untraced in the rubble. 

The devastation wrought on poor workers brought to light for the first time what outsourcing by big brands is capable of. The world woke up to the irony of the high-heeled squeezing the life out of hapless workers earning a fraction of what a premium garment is worth, as their month’s earnings. Global fashion labels have their products designed by fashion giants before sending them to places like Bangladesh, China, Taiwan, Indonesia and Vietnam for production. Contractors with factories housing production equipment in these countries churn out millions of garments with the help of poorly paid workers. 

Rana Plaza, the name of the collapsed factory complex, became a symbol of exploitation of the Least Developing world by developed and industrialised countries. Bangladesh, known for political instability and a frail economy, was in the glare of world media. Even though the multinational companies that were manufacturing merchandise at the accident site came together to pool resources for a fund to help the dead and injured, much remains to be done. A year after the disaster, victims’ families, global advocacy groups and non-government organisations complain of inadequate or no compensation to the victims. The owner of Rana Plaza who is the main accused in the case, has not been charged. Much remains to be done to compensate and rehabilitate those workers who were rendered incapable of working because of losing a limb or some other part of 

their body. 

Bangladesh was in the spotlight for one of the worst disasters involving textile workers. 

The government should push efforts to provide adequate compensation to workers and their relatives. Dhaka should not spare any effort to pressure foreign companies to abide by their pledges made after the incident.