By Pooja Lucie Willmann
The beginning of May marked International Workers Day, rallying thousands of discontent
workers around the world around issues from inflation to pensions. In Europe, for example,
protests demonstrated discontent as well as evolving awareness on political and legal rights.
International recognition of such issues is important when taking into account the 6,300 daily
deaths due to occupational accidents. The fashion industry is a major contributor to these
numbers, the Rana Plaza incident killing at least 1,132 individuals and injuring a further
2,500. It is the deadliest accident of the garment industry and a visceral example of the
impact of the fashion industry on workers' lives in specific regions of the world. April 24 was the 9-year anniversary of the collapse, inviting reflection and acting as a marker of the
progress made by the fashion industry every year. It is apt that a few days later, April 28
marked the commemoration of World Day for Safety and Health at Work.
Rana Plaza is, above all, a rallying cry against fast fashion. When rapid production and
consumption become the norm, workers’ rights are undercut through lower wages and a more dangerous working environment. Lack of legislation around safety was the principal cause of the collapse, demonstrating the direct impact of take-make-waste consumption models.
In response to the incident, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh was signed by 220 companies in 2013. The accord was extended until 2020 and was then handed over to the Sustainability Council (RSC), in charge of implementing the programme and extending its scope to labor rights. $30 million in donations was also given to the victims and their families by 2015. Yet at least 100 more accidents have occurred since the Rana Plaza
collapse, and the recent pandemic considerably worsened the conditions of garment workers in India for example, due to lack of severance payments.
Whilst contentious issues remain, it is undeniable that citizen consciousness and mobilization
has furthered the cause. In 2014, post Rana Plaza, the first Fashion Revolution Day made
#whomademyclothes the number one trending hashtag on twitter worldwide. In terms of
concrete legislation, in September 2021, 171 global retailers signed the International Accord
for Health and Safety in the Garment and Textile Industry, based on the Bangladesh Accord.
More recently, the passage of The Garment Worker Protection Act (SB62) in California in
January 2022, symbolised a wave of regulation in the right direction, and hope for the future
of fashion and its workers.
International Labour Organization (ILO) (2017, December 21). The Rana Plaza Accident and
its aftermath. https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/geip/WCMS_614394/lang--en/index.htm
Solá-Santiago, F. (2022, January 17). For Activists, The Garment Worker Protection Act Is
Just the Beginning. Refinery29.
Preuss, S. (2022, April 25). Rana Plaza - nine years later. FashionUnited.
Rahman, S., & Yadlapalli, A. (2021, April 22). Years after the Rana Plaza tragedy,
Bangladesh’s garment workers are still bottom of the pile. The Conversation.