Abuses ‘still rife’: 10 years on from Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza disaster (2023)

The fight for safe conditions and fair pay in Bangladesh has not yet been won, campaigners are warning on the 10th anniversary of the deadliest disaster in the garment industry’s history.

On 24 April 2013, 1,134 people were killed and at least another 2,000 injured in the collapse of a factory building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where clothing was being made for international brands including Primark, Bonmarché and Canada’s Loblaw.

The owner of the Rana Plaza building remains in prison but the murder trial against him and others, including factory owners and local officials, continues to grind on almost seven years since charges were brought, with no one yet to be convicted.

Campaigners say workers in Bangladesh, which is the second-largest exporter of clothing in the world behind China, are still underpaid and can be harassed for being part of a union, while factory owners face sharp practices from brands such as delaying payments, cancelling or dramatically reducing orders without notice.

Paul Nowak, the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress in the UK, said: “Ten years after more than a thousand workers died in the Rana Plaza factory collapse, labour rights abuses are still rife in Bangladesh and many are still working in unsafe conditions.

“Relentless union campaigning secured important safety protections for factory workers. But many non-factory workers do not have the same protections.”

(Video) Made in Bangladesh - the fifth estate

Abuses ‘still rife’: 10 years on from Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza disaster (1)

Moushumi Begum, who spent three hours trapped under the eight-storey Rana Plaza, said: “It all happened so quickly. I vividly remember every detail about that day, even though it was 10 years ago.”

After the building collapsed, Begum spent the next three hours fighting for her life. “Every second of those hours, I lay there praying to Allah. It was dark all around me and I couldn’t tell if I was dead or alive,” she said on a sunny afternoon in Savar, on the outskirts of Dhaka, while cradling her baby.

“I could hear people screaming and crying out for help. But I had taken in so much dust that every time I tried to open my mouth, no sound came out,” she added.

Husnara Akhtar, 30, recalled having breakfast with her husband, Abu Sufyan, before they made their way to work that day. “He always took four spoons of sugar with his tea and it drove me crazy,” she said, staring blankly at her own cup as she spoke.

The couple had both worked in the Rana Plaza building, though for different factories, said Akhtar: “He was on the 5th floor and I was on the 7th but we always had lunch together. He would wait for me by the gates after work so we could go home together. I last saw him alive by those gates … Little did I know how my life would change that day.”

When Akhtar gained consciousness, after the building’s collapse, she found herself wedged between two dead bodies. Her husband’s body was found a week later, crushed under a concrete pillar.

(Video) Exploited garment workers in Bangladesh | DW Documentary

Abuses ‘still rife’: 10 years on from Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza disaster (2)

A positive legacy of the tragedy has been the creation of one of the world’s toughest factory safety agreements, which has brought together brands, manufacturers and union representatives to check and fix buildings and advise workers of their rights.

Called the accord on fire and building safety in Bangladesh, it legally bound fashion brands to help pay for safety inspections and remediation in the country’s clothing industry. To date, there have been nearly 56,000 safety inspections across more than 2,400 garment factories in Bangladesh and more than 140,000 safety improvements made.

More than two million workers are protected by the factory refurbishments. Although a similar number work in other factories not covered by the accord, their working conditions have had more oversight from government-backed inspections since an increase in international scrutiny.

Brands have contributed at least $3m (£2.4m) to helping renovate factories in Bangladesh. Primark, Walmart, Zara’s owner Inditex and H&M were among those that contributed to a $30m compensation fund for the families of the people who died or were injured in the Rana Plaza disaster.

In 2021, an expanded international accord was developed that included more safety and worker health provisions beyond fire, electrical and structural inspections and repairs of factories. It also committed brands to develop a similar structure in Pakistan and at least one other country.

To date, at least 46 brands and retailers have signed the Pakistan accord, which is expected to protect 750,000 workers, although inspections are only now getting under way.

(Video) The ninth anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse

Abuses ‘still rife’: 10 years on from Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza disaster (3)

However, campaigners say some big multinationals including Levi’s, Gap, Walmart and Amazon have yet to sign up to the Bangladesh factory safety deal.

Atle Høie is the general secretary of IndustriALL, a global union federation that played a key role in negotiating that accord. He said: “Although significant progress in Bangladesh’s garment industry has been made, safe factories still need to be fought for. Workers who produce the clothes that we wear deserve a workplace that provides them with a living wage and decent working conditions, not a workplace that threatens to take their lives.

“More brands need to join the accord, especially in North America, to gain the leverage we need to extend it to more countries and make it truly global.”

Levi’s said the accord was “not the only way to support workers in Bangladesh or anywhere else”. The company said it was confident in its own system of factory oversight that provided “checks and balances [and] helped us go further and gave us greater agility”.

Walmart said it remained committed to sourcing from factories that maintained safe working environments. The US retailer signed up to the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety. After the dissolution of the alliance came the formation of Nirapon, a self-regulatory body that aims to regulate factories but does not have legally binding commitments.

Kalpona Akter, the founder and executive director of the grassroots organisation Bangladesh Center for Workers’ Solidarity, said the achievement of persuading brands and factory owners to sign up to the accord should not be underestimated.

(Video) Bangladesh's struggle with flooding | DW Documentary

“No one believed this agreement was even possible,” she said. “Definitely we made a fundamental difference on [factory] safety but when we talk about other rights of workers such as wages and gender-based violence it is still there.”

Akter said the pandemic, during which many factories were forced to close, leaving workers without pay in many cases, “showed how vulnerable workers” were and highlighted how they needed spare cash for emergencies.

Michael Posner, a former assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labour in the Obama administration, agreed.

“Relationships between Bangladeshi factory owners and their corporate customers, which were badly strained by the Covid pandemic, have continued to squeeze the factory owners, and this exploitation leads to worse conditions for workers,” said Posner, who is director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights.

Posner said he wanted to see more transparency on retail supply chains and commitments to payment deadlines. “Global fashion brands need to accept their share of the responsibility for ensuring the wellbeing of factory workers whose labour is a crucial component of the continued growth and vitality of this industry,” he said.

Now campaigners want brands to sign up to a new deal which would support a living wage.

Since the Rana Plaza disaster, the minimum wage in the garment sector in Bangladesh has been reviewed every five years. The minimum was last reviewed in 2018, when it was set at 8,000 BDT (about £61) a month, half what workers were demanding.

(Video) Talks @ Pulitzer: Bangladesh Factory Workers - Rights and Reforms

This wage, which was not seen as enough to get by on five years ago, is still in place, despite hefty inflation and widespread worker protest.

Akter said: “The war in Ukraine has hit every single person’s kitchen. Even though so much work has been done, there is a whole system [that doesn’t work]. More than ever before, brands listen to consumers through social media, especially in Europe. Consumer pressure can bring some brands to the table.”


Abuses ‘still rife’: 10 years on from Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza disaster? ›

"Ten years after more than a thousand workers died in the Rana Plaza factory collapse, labour rights abuses are still rife in Bangladesh and many are still working in unsafe conditions. “Relentless union campaigning secured important safety protections and rights for factory workers.

What were the effects of the Rana Plaza collapse? ›

This was not the first deadly disaster in a garment factory in Bangladesh—the factory Tazreen Fashions collapsed only five months earlier, killing over 110 people. But the scale of the Rana Plaza collapse brought greater global attention to the unsafe working conditions of many workers in the garment industry.

How much monetary compensation did the victims of Rana Plaza eventually get? ›

In total, the Rana Plaza Arrangement paid out BDT 1,421,273,046.31 (almost 13 million GPB/16 million EURO/USD 18.5 million), from the money collected by the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund.

What is the central idea of 4 years after Rana Plaza tragedy what's changed for Bangladeshi garment workers? ›

4 Years After Rana Plaza Tragedy, What's Changed For Bangladeshi Garment Workers. In 2013, a tragedy in Bangladesh led to attention from many labor and human rights organizations and caused a call for change in the garment industry, mainly a need for transparency, or being open and honest about business operations.

What was one of the consequences of the Bangladesh factory collapse of 2013? ›

Approximately 2,500 injured people were rescued from the building. It is considered the deadliest accidental structural failure in modern human history, the deadliest garment-factory disaster in history and the deadliest industrial accident in the history of Bangladesh.

What was the most significant result of the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013? ›

The Rana Plaza disaster led to the creation of the Accord on Factory and Building Safety in Bangladesh, which was signed by 38 companies. However, some major retailers, such as Walmart, refused to sign the agreement, leading to criticism from labor groups.

Who is the blame for the Rana Plaza accident? ›

The “Rana Plaza” structure did not meet safety codes and was built and expanded without a permit. The Rajdhani Unnayan Kotripokkho (RAJUK) is one of the government authorities responsible for this catastrophe.

What was the minimum wage in Rana Plaza? ›

The workers were reported to earn as little as 45 cents an hour, but Huq said earlier this year that factories struggle to pay higher wages as they do not get a fair price from brands.

How much were Rana Plaza workers paid? ›

A basic inequity was exposed. Inside factories like Rana, workers labored long hours, often in unsafe conditions, earning an average of approximately $50 a month—less than the cost of just one of the pairs of pants they were assembling for sale in Europe and the United States.

Can Rana Plaza happen again in Bangladesh? ›

This is just a case among many. If these conditions cannot be taken care of then, surely, Rana Plaza can happen again. More researches are necessary in such cases to explore and understand different dimensions of the problems in the way of achieving structural integrity in the RMG sector in Bangladesh.

How could the Rana Plaza collapse been prevented? ›

This preventable disaster would not have happened with adequate safety measures and a strong monitoring system with inclusion of workers' voices. The Bangladesh Accord has introduced and implemented these in the past eight years.

What brands are linked to Rana Plaza? ›

Among the Western labels found among the ruins of the eight-storey Rana Plaza building were Primark and Asda. Fast fashion giant Primark has contributed more than $14m (£11.3m) in financial aid to those who were affected by the tragedy, the company said in a statement.

How did the Rana Plaza tragedy change the fashion industry? ›

It shook the fashion industry, shining a spotlight on critical safety failings in major brands' supply chains. In its wake, hundreds of brands signed a groundbreaking safety agreement that helped improve conditions in thousands of factories in Bangladesh, but elsewhere little has changed.

Which clothing factory collapse in Bangladesh? ›

The collapse of the Rana Plaza factory building in Bangladesh was the worst ever industrial incident to hit the garment industry. It was followed by a struggle for justice for the Rana Plaza workers and safe factories for all. “They tried to pull the concrete plates that were on top of us.

What events led up to the Bangladesh genocide? ›

Unwilling to relinquish power, West Pakistani elites led by General Yahya Khan suspended parliament and, when faced with a nonviolent national strike, eventually sent their army to Bangladesh. The genocide began with massacres in the capital, Dhaka, on March 25, 1971, and soon spread to the rest of Bangladesh.

What event led to the Bangladesh crisis of 1971? ›

The war began when the Pakistani military junta based in West Pakistan—under the orders of Yahya Khan—launched Operation Searchlight against the people of East Pakistan on the night of 25 March 1971, initiating the Bangladesh genocide.

What was the name of the compensation fund for the Rana Plaza victims? ›

The Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund.

Was the Rana Plaza disaster preventable? ›

At least 1,138 people died and thousands more were injured. This is the worst industrial disaster the garment industry has ever seen and it was entirely preventable. Workers were forced to enter a building they knew was unsafe under threat of losing their wages.

Is Plaza Rana the deadliest garment factory accident in modern history? ›

The Rana Plaza disaster, Savar, Bangladesh

On 24 April 2013, the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which housed five garment factories, killed at least 1,132 people and injured more than 2,500.

Who pays the highest minimum wage in the world? ›

Which country has the highest minimum wage? Australia has the highest minimum wage per month in the world. The monthly minimum wage rate in Australia is set at USD 14.54. This is according to a report by World Population Review.

Who has the largest minimum wage? ›

The state with the highest minimum wage isn't California or New York—and it pays more than $15/hour
  • Washington: $15.74. Living wage: $19.58.
  • California: $15.50. Living wage: $21.24.
  • Massachusetts: $15. Living wage: $21.35.
  • New York: $14.20. Living wage: $21.46.
  • New Jersey: $14.13. Living wage: $18.71.
Apr 14, 2023

Why was 15 chosen for minimum wage? ›

A $15 minimum wage by 2025 would generate $107 billion in higher wages for workers and would also benefit communities across the country. Because underpaid workers spend much of their extra earnings, this injection of wages will help stimulate the economy and spur greater business activity and job growth.

Did Walmart use Rana Plaza? ›

(In 2012, the year before the walls of Rana Plaza crumbled, Walmart, one of the largest multinationals that allegedly outsourced to Rana Plaza — a claim the company denied — made $17 billion in profits.)

What did H&M do after Rana Plaza? ›

Following the Rana Plaza tragedy, the 2013 Accord on Fire and Building Safety – a legally binding contract to ensure garment workers in Bangladesh have a safe working environment – was signed by more than 200 brands globally, including the likes of H&M, Zara owner Inditex and Adidas.

Who made clothes in Rana Plaza? ›

Benetton, Matalan, Mango, Primark and other major brands used the eight-storey Rana Plaza building, housing the five garment factories and 5,000 workers to make their clothes.

How many victims in Rana Plaza? ›

This week marks 10 years since the Rana Plaza collapse, the Bangladesh garment industry's worst tragedy that killed 1,134 workers inside an eight-story Dhaka factory.

What were the main reasons for collapsing Rana Plaza in 2013? ›

A series of technical and administrative errors caused the final disaster at Rana Plaza Garment Factory in Bangladesh. Experts have since concluded that the collapse of the garment factory was “totally avoidable”. Parts of the building were built without proper city permits.

What happened at Rana Plaza in 2013? ›

On April 23, 2013, a group of garment factories collapsed in Rana Plaza near Dhaka, Bangladesh. The accident killed more than 1,100 people and injured at least 2,500. It's considered the deadliest accident in the history of the modern garment industry.

Why was a 9th floor being added to the Rana Plaza factory? ›

When the building finally collapsed on April 24, 2013, it was too late to rescue many of them. The building was originally intended to only be a social space, however, the owner of the building decided to add extra floors on top of the already existing 5-story building.

What did Rana Plaza produce? ›

Factories in Rana Plaza produced garments for the likes of Italian retailer Bennetton and British fast fashion brand Primark. As such, the disaster held a mirror up to the developed world, namely consumers hungry for cheap clothing and Western brands using low-cost production to meet demand.

Did Nike use Rana Plaza? ›

A number of Western companies, from Nike to Ivanka Trump to H&M, source labor from Bangladesh. Specifically, Zara, Walmart, Benetton, and Mango had all produced apparel in Rana Plaza factories.

Who owns Rana Plaza? ›

A team of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) arrested Sohel Rana, the owner of Rana Plaza, when he was trying to flee to India through Benapole on 29 April that year. Since then he has been behind the bars.

What is Rana Plaza best known for? ›

It was the deadliest accident in the history of the garment industry. Ten years later, has anything changed for factory workers?

Which Walmart designer left Bangladesh? ›

Before he left Bangladesh, the fifth estate took former Walmart designer Sujeet Sennik to see what remains of Rana Plaza.

Why are so many clothes made in Bangladesh? ›

Bangladesh is Duty-Free

This status affords the country reduced tariffs on numerous developing and developed countries. With over 52 countries around the globe offering Bangladesh duty-free market access, you can rest assured that its products are highly likely to be competitive even on a global scale.

Is clothing made in Bangladesh ethical? ›

The latest survey report by Hong Kong-based supply chain compliance solutions provider, QIMA, ranked Bangladesh second in “Ethical Manufacturing” with a score of 7.7 after Taiwan that scored 8.0.

What is the old name of Bangladesh? ›

With the partition of India in 1947, it became the Pakistani province of East Bengal (later renamed East Pakistan), one of five provinces of Pakistan, separated from the other four by 1,100 miles (1,800 km) of Indian territory. In 1971 it became the independent country of Bangladesh, with its capital at Dhaka.

Which countries recognize the Bangladesh genocide? ›

In the case of Bangladesh, India and her allies recognized the Bangladesh genocide while Pakistan and her allies, Islamic bloc countries, China, and the United States refused to recognize the atrocities as acts of genocide.

What was the conclusion of the genocide in Bangladesh? ›

The Pakistani Army surrendered to Indian forces days later, ending the genocide on December 16, 1971.

Why did Russia help Bangladesh in 1971? ›

Soviet-Bangladeshi relations

The Soviet Union had been a strong supporter of the Mukti Bahini during the Bangladesh Liberation War and provided extensive aid, recognising that Bangladesh's independence would weaken the position of its rivals – the United States and China.

How many people died in the Bangladesh genocide? ›

Activists raised their concerns regarding the recognition of the Bangladesh Genocide of 1971. Approximately 3 million people endured fatality throughout its entirety: 8 months, 2 weeks, and 6 days.

When did the Bangladesh genocide end? ›

What is the importance of Rana Plaza? ›

The Rana Plaza disaster also led to progress, supported by the International Labour Organization, on labour law reform, labour inspection, workplace safety and compensation for injuries to take steps to strengthen inspections of working conditions in factories.

Why is the incident at Rana Plaza factory important? ›

The Rana Plaza disaster, Savar, Bangladesh

These disasters, among the worst industrial accidents on record, awoke the world to the poor labour conditions faced by workers in the ready-made garment sector in Bangladesh.

What happened after the Rana regime? ›

Rana dynasty is historically known for the iron-fisted rule. This changed after the Revolution of 1951 with the promulgation of a new constitution, when power shifted back to the monarchy of King Tribhuvan.

How can the Rana Plaza tragedy be prevented in the future? ›

If we want to prevent another Rana Plaza and sustain the positive changes, then we need a new Accord agreement to be signed by all brands sourcing from Bangladesh." Unions and labour rights organisations in and outside Bangladesh are calling for such an international binding safety agreement.

What are some of the problematic aspects of working conditions in the Rana factory? ›

A basic inequity was exposed. Inside factories like Rana, workers labored long hours, often in unsafe conditions, earning an average of approximately $50 a month—less than the cost of just one of the pairs of pants they were assembling for sale in Europe and the United States.

What is the deadliest accidental building collapse in the world? ›

What Was the Deadliest Structural Failure in a Building? The deadliest building collapse of all time was the World Trade Center collapse on Sept. 11, 2001, which killed 2,996 people and first-responders. Why did the World Trade Center collapse?

Who did Rana Plaza make clothes for? ›

Everyday brands such as Benetton, Mango, Zara, Walmart, and C&A were revealed to have resorted to factories inside of the faulty eight-story building, setting many on a racetrack to reclaim their ethical and environmental credentials since.

Why Rana rule is still criticized? ›

In the history of Nepal, Rana Regime is known as Dark Age as it lacked freedom, public sovereignty, and public literacy. It started from the rule of Jung Bahadur Rana in 1903 BS causing 'Kot Parwa' [Kot Massacre] to happen.

What was the downfall of Rana? ›

Later the Nepali Congress started an armed revolution which was contributed by king Tribhuwan. The reigning king abdicated the throne and took asylum in the Indian Embassy. Finally, the Ranas agreed upon the Delhi Compromise which somehow marked their end.

What was the conclusion of Rana dynasty? ›

In 1991 the kingdom established a multiparty parliamentary system. In 2008, however, after a decadelong period of violence and turbulent negotiation with a strong Maoist insurgency, the monarchy was dissolved, and Nepal was declared a democratic republic.


1. Get Real S12: Ep1 - Inside Bangladesh's Factories
2. Book Launch | Labor, Global Supply Chains, & the Garment Industry in SA: Bangladesh after Rana Plaza
(Isas Departmental)
3. Bangladesh building collapse: Protestors clash with police in Dhaka
(Channel 4 News)
4. Can safety be assured in Bangladesh's garment industry? | Inside Story
(Al Jazeera English)
5. How to change the garment industry? | Bangladesh Accord
(Clean Clothes Campaign)
6. Trust Women 2014 - Plenary - The Human Cost of a Bargain: Slavery in the Modern Supply Chain


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