The collapse of the Rana Plaza factory building in Bangladesh is the worst ever industrial accident to hit the garment industry. On 24 April 2013, the Rana Plaza building came crashing down, killing 1,134 people and leaving thousands more injured. People all across the world looked on in shock and horror as media reports poured in revealing the true extent of the human toll. There were harrowing stories of survival, of people who had no choice but to amputate their own limbs in order to be freed from the rubble and survive.
The collapse of Rana Plaza brought worldwide attention to deathtrap workplaces within the garment industry. The public interest and media attention has resulted in more political pressure than ever before to effect change and has led to significant ground-breaking approaches to prevention and remedy, with the establishment of the binding Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh and the Rana Plaza Arrangement involving all major stakeholders, meant to compensate the survivors and the families of the killed workers.
The Rana Plaza Arrangement
It is true that no amount can make up for the loss of a loved one or the resulting physical and emotional scars inflicted on those who survived such a tragedy. But what is also true is that the survivors and victims’ families should be compensated for the financial and medical losses they sustained as a direct result of the disaster. After the disaster the Rana Plaza Arrangement was set up, which included a trust fund collecting contributions primarily from the 29 global brands that had recent or current orders with at least one of the five garment factories in the Rana Plaza building. Only after more than two years after the disaster and some vigourous campaigning could the last reluctant brands, such as Benetton, be convinced to pay an approriate amount into the fund and was the target of $30 million compensation reached.
Read more here: We won: the announcement of full compensation for the families affected by the Rana Plaza disaster.
Despite the long campaign not all brands that were associated with production in one of the Rana Plaza factories paid up.
Still Waiting a report from 2013 about the struggle to reach compensation for the families affected by Rana Plaza and Tazreen Fashions.
More information about the arrangement and a complete list of all the donors to the Fund is available here at the website of the Rana Plaza agreement.
- Rana Plaza three years on: Compensation, Justice, and Workers' safety (2016)
Rana Plaza in the media
- The shirt on your back - The Guardian
- In pictures: recounting the horrors of Rana Plaza - Al Jazeera
- The deadly cost of fashion - New York Times
- Interactive guide to Rana Plaza - The Guardian
- When workers die, no company can walk away - Al Jazeera
- UNI global union about the events of April 24th
- Eight Storeys - project showing cost of fashion
Shila Begum: a survivor's story
“I felt a shock and the floor gave way. People started running in chaos and the ceiling came down. I kept protecting my head, but I got stuck between the rubble. My hand got stuck and I thought I would die. People around died.”
Shila lay trapped in the rubble for a full day, like many of those around her she was screaming out for help. Finally at 5pm someone came to rescue them.
“They tried to pull the concrete plates that were on top of us. From boths side of the plates people were pulling me and they managed to get me out. [But] the weight of the concrete had pulled my uterus. At 11pm they removed my uterus completely.”
Shila, who had moved to Dhaka with her daughter in search of work after her husband died, is now unable to work due to the pain she suffers in her arm and the traumatic effects of the day.
“I need medical treatment and I have dreams for my child, so I need to earn money. The tuition fees might be low, but all the materials you need to buy, like shoes, books, uniform and the exam money comes on top of this.”She called on all brands across Europe to immediately pay up, so that she and the thousands of survivors and family members can begin to rebuild their lives. It would last another year before the Rana Plaza fund would be fully filled and full and fair compensation could be paid out.