On this day our thoughts are with the at least 112 people who where killed in the fire, as well as with their mourning families and those who managed to escape the fire, but still live with the memories. The Tazreen Fashions factory was a death trap, in which barred windows and locked exits impeded workers’ escape. Brands knew that death trap factories were prevalent in Bangladesh, but had failed to take responsibility to keep their workers safe.
Even though the legally binding Accord agreements, of which the fourth iteration just entered into force, has improved the safety of many factories in Bangladesh, several of the brands that sourced from the Tazreen factory have refused to join these efforts. Walmart, Sears, and Disney have failed to sign the Accord over the past decade, thereby showing the same contempt for workers’ lives as in 2012.
This year the Tazreen anniversary coincides with Black Friday, a day of excessive consumption and rock-bottom prices. It is important to remember that many of the brands making exorbitant profits on this day do this while willingly risking the lives of the workers in their supply chain. Amazon, IKEA, Levi’s, Target Corp, Decathlon, and JC Penney are among the brands that in the past ten years have failed to sign the Accord.
The Tazreen Fashion workers had to be compensated in an ad hoc compensation scheme, with calculations based on ILO standards, but rooted in the country’s poverty wages. Workers killed or injured in smaller factory incidents remained without compensation at all. After years of advocacy, last year an Employment Injury Insurance (EII) scheme pilot for garment workers started. It is of vital importance that this pilot will lead to an insurance scheme for garment workers in Bangladesh enshrined in national law, and to find a bridging solution to do justice by the workers affected by factory incidents in the past decade.