What has changed one year after Rana Plaza

Rana Plaza building collapse

A poster tied to a fence at the scene of the Bangladesh Rana Plaza building collapse and reading, 'We want a safe work place, not a death trap' is hung above the rubble on the first anniversary of the disaster. Thousands of people, some wearing funeral shrouds, staged demonstrations at the site of the now-infamous factory complex. 

On April 24, 2013 an eight-story factory building collapsed in Bangladesh, in a complex called "Rana Plaza."

1,129 workers died. More than 2,500 were injured, many seriously so.

The factory made clothing for companies all over the world, from Walmart to Benetton.

The BBC's Akbar Hossain covered the collapse and the aftermath. In the year since, he's spoken with workers and factory owners. He told Marketplace's David Gura about the past year in Bangladesh's garment industry:

Q: What sort of tangible changes have you seen to these factories in Bangladesh? Do they look different?

To be very honest, the situation and the physical infrastructure [of most factories] has not changed yet. Workers [still] are alleging that they're working in very dangerous conditions. 

There are factories in Bangladesh that are very compliant...they meet all the standards of international buyers. But there are many factories which don't even comply with the minimum standards in Bangladesh. And thousands of workers are working there -- there's a problem.

Q: This is an issue that attracted so much attention globally. There was a compensation fund that was intended to raise at least $40 million for victims. This hasn't happened yet. Why?

Bangladeshi garment owners are saying they couldn't insure the factories safety and standards because internatioanl buyers always want cheaper garments from Bangladesh. So they have to maintain the factories in cheaper ways. 

Bangladesh's garment industry is a huge industry for Bangladesh. It earns $20 billion every year. More than 5 million people are directly employed in the garment industry, and there are [many] other people who have links. 

Q: Rana Plaza did contract work for some big western companies, like Mango and Benetton. Have you seen these businesses travelling more to Bangladesh? Taking a closer look since this happened?

The Rana Plaza disaster was a wake up call for the Bangladeshi garment indsustry, and it was a wake up call for international garments and brands also. They are coming to Bangladesh. I've talked to Trade Union Leaders, and they are telling me, yes, international buyers are now more serious. They're trying to maximize they're profit, but now they're focusing on the safety issues. They're actually pressing garment factory owners to insure a safer workplace.

So things are changing, things have worked, but things are going very slow.

About the author

Akbar Hossain is a correspondent for the BBC.

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