Abuses ‘still rife’: 10 years on from the 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 delay 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) Bangladesh Factory Collapse

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

Moushumi Begum, who spent three hours trapped under the eight-storey Rama 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) Made in Bangladesh - the fifth estate

Abuses ‘still rife’: 10 years on from the 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 the 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) Reflecting on Rana Plaza

“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) Exploited garment workers in Bangladesh | DW Documentary

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 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 the Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza disaster? ›

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.

What changed after Rana Plaza disaster? ›

Efforts to improve labour rights

The Rana Plaza disaster brought into sharp focus the need for labour rights to be respected and for greater social dialogue between the Government, employers and trade unions. Whilst there has been progress over the past decade, the path has not always been smooth.

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 compensation for the victims of Rana Plaza? ›

Claims were accepted for 720 deceased and 148 missing workers; in total 2,559 dependants of these workers were provided with awards resulting from these claims. The minimum amount awarded for claims for deceased, missing workers was set at 1,050,000 BDT (GBP 9,500/11,500 EURO).

Who is to blame for Rana Plaza? ›

A number of engineering and administrative failures contributed to the ultimate disaster of the Rana Plaza garment factories in Bangladesh. Experts have since concluded the garment factory collapse was “entirely preventable.” Parts of the building were constructed without proper permits from the city.

What was the conclusion of the Rana Plaza disaster? ›

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.

Why the Rana Plaza incident is considered an ethical disaster? ›

On 24 April 2013, the collapse of Rana Plaza that housed five garment factories killed at least 1,134 workers and injured many more. It exposed the vulnerability of the industry as well as the global lack of responsibility and accountability.

Can Rana Plaza happen again? ›

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.

Who did Rana Plaza make clothes for? ›

We collected over 1 million signatures to make Benetton pay up an appropriate amount. There was irrefutable evidence exposing their direct link to Rana Plaza – photographs of the Benetton labels in the building rubble, and documentation of order forms from the New Wave Factory in the Rana Plaza building.

What were some of the conditions that caused the building collapse in Bangladesh? ›

Large power generators placed on these upper floors, necessary because of regular power failures, would shake the poorly constructed building whenever they were switched on, according to the report. On April 23, cracks appeared in the building, shaking the structure enough that many workers fled.

What was the aftermath of the Bangladesh genocide? ›

As a result of the conflict, a further eight to ten million people fled the country to seek refuge in neighbouring India. It is estimated that up to 30 million civilians were internally displaced out of 70 million. During the war, there was also ethnic violence between Bengalis and Urdu-speaking Biharis.

What was the aftermath of the Bangladesh war? ›

The war led to a substantial number of refugees (estimated at the time to be about 10 million) flooding into the eastern provinces of India. Facing a mounting humanitarian and economic crisis, India started actively aiding and organising the Bangladeshi resistance army known as the Mukti Bahini.

What were the conditions for the Rana Plaza? ›

Reports show that Rana Plaza was built on unsuitable land, construction rules were flouted, corners were cut in procuring building materials, and officials took bribes to look the other way. Corruption created the perfect storm for the tragedy to take place.

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.

Why was Rana Plaza unsafe? ›

The garment factory building was built with substandard materials. An engineer inspected the building the day before it collapsed and warned the owners that it was unsafe. But the owners ordered workers to return the next day, which tragically resulted in the loss of many lives.

How many children died in the Rana Plaza? ›

2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse
Side view of the collapsed building
Date24 April 2013 (9 years ago)
Coordinates23°50′46″N 90°15′27″E
Also known asRana plaza building collapse
5 more rows

What is the documentary about the Rana Plaza collapse? ›

'Clothes to Die For' is a documentary about the worst industrial disaster of the 21st century - the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh, in which more than 1100 people died and 2400 were injured. The building housed factories that were making clothes for many western companies.

What are the ethics in disaster recovery? ›

Preparation efforts must consider equal liberty and human rights; distributive justice; public accountability; the development of strong community partnerships; public health professionalism and reasonable civic response. Mitigation is the attempt to reduce or avert the impact of a disaster.

What are the ethical challenges in disaster? ›

Disaster ethics are concerned with all issues related to moral decision-making and actions taken within the context of disasters. The distinctive characteristic of disaster ethics is found in the specific challenges presented by disasters and the way in which they differ from everyday situations.

What are the 6 ethical considerations in disaster management? ›

The ethical principles applied during disasters: (i) Humanitarian assistance; (ii) Information and participation during disasters; (iii) Compulsory evacuation of populations; (iv) Respect of dignity; (v) Respect of persons; (vi) Emergency assistance for the most vulnerable persons; (vii) The importance of rescue ...

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.

Did H&M use Rana Plaza? ›

The fall of the Rana Plaza brought wide attention to the corporate world including H&M, an international corporation manufacturing clothes across the globe with its main manufacturing sites located in Dhaka. This paper aims to address the CSR Crisis of H&M during the Rana Plaza.

How many garment workers are there in Bangladesh? ›

There are 4 million garment workers in Bangladesh, more than 58 percent of whom are women.

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.)

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.

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 was the deadliest building collapse in the world? ›

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?

What are three effects of the collapse of a building? ›

The effects of a building collapse are fatal; they include the loss of lives, the incapacity of those who were injured in the collapse, the destruction of property, financial losses, the wastage of time and valuable resources, an increase in the number of homeless persons, etc.

What are some important facts about the Bangladesh genocide? ›

Approximately 3 million people endured fatality throughout its entirety: 8 months, 2 weeks, and 6 days. With the addition of sexual violence, religious intolerance, and ethnic cleansing, the genocide has had a significant impact on Bangladesh at large.

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 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.

When did the Bangladesh genocide end? ›

What language do they speak in Bangladesh? ›

The predominant language of Bangladesh is Bengali (also known as Bangla). The Chakma language is another native of Bangladesh. Other tribal languages include Garo, Meitei, Kokborok and Rakhine.

When did US recognize Bangladesh? ›

4 April 1972

What changed after the Rana Plaza? ›

As one said: Changes brought in after Rana Plaza, such as limiting the worker overtime hours and availability of a nurse and a childcare worker in the facility, are often only done for the day of auditing. The reason: to keep costs low.

How many people died in Bangladesh factory collapse? ›

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 is to blame for the Rana Plaza tragedy? ›

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.

Who was to blame for the Rana Plaza collapse? ›

Much of the blame was placed on the negligence of Mr Rana, who was accused of placing profits over the value of human safety and life. However, retailers were also held accountable over a lack of diligence to monitor the capacity of their suppliers, safety standards and wages paid.

Who was blamed for Rana Plaza? ›

Rana Plaza collapse
Side view of the collapsed building
Date24 April 2013 (10 years ago)
Non-fatal injuries~2,500
SuspectsSohel Rana
5 more rows

What is the conclusion on Rana Plaza collapse? ›

The Rana Plaza disaster continues to be a reminder of the importance of ensuring workers' rights and improving safety in global supply chains. In conclusion, the Rana Plaza disaster was a tragedy that brought the plight of workers in the Bangladesh garment industry to the forefront of the world's attention.

What companies used Rana Plaza? ›

The Rana Plaza building, situated in the Dhaka suburb of Savar, housed various garment factories making clothes for brands including Benetton, Primark, Bonmarché, Walmart and Mango.

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.

How many floors was Rana Plaza supposed to have? ›

Ten years ago, on the morning of 24 April 2013, the world was shaken by the tragic collapse of Rana Plaza, an eight-story building that housed several garment factories in Savar, on the outskirts of the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka.

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 went wrong with Rana Plaza? ›

On the Rana Plaza factory floor, pressure to deliver cheap products quickly created a situation where workers who were there at the time of the accident were forced to keep on working despite cracks appearing in the building.

How does fast fashion affect Bangladesh? ›

Fast fashion's low cost has disastrous environmental effects on Bangladesh. Garment factories utilize hazardous dyes and chemicals that are dumped into local rivers and poison the water supply in order to create clothes fast and cheaply.

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 tragic event in Bangladesh prompted large protests and increased pressure to improve working conditions and wages? ›

The Rana Plaza collapse, which killed over 1,100 garment workers, led to much better labor conditions. Now that legacy could be in jeopardy, as a power struggle unfolds over factory safety. As a subscriber, you have 10 gift articles to give each month.

Why do most clothes come from 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.

What percent of clothes come from Bangladesh? ›

It provides direct employment to 4 million people, most of them women. Eighty-five percent of the nation's exports are apparel, making Bangladesh the world's second-greatest supplier of clothing after China.

Is fast fashion destroying our environment? ›

These unsold garments are often burned, as it's cheaper and easier for the company than finding a way to reuse or recycle them. Apart from wasting resources, the fast fashion industry pollutes waterways with toxic dyes, and increases the number of microfibres in the ocean through the use of fossil fuel-based fabrics.


1. Rubana Huq | Price and Progress: Beyond Rana Plaza in Bangladesh
(Isas Departmental)
2. Book Launch | Labor, Global Supply Chains, & the Garment Industry in SA: Bangladesh after Rana Plaza
(Isas Departmental)
3. Towards decent work for all: Asia’s textile industry 10 years after Rana Plaza
4. Get Real S12: Ep1 - Inside Bangladesh's Factories
5. Bangladesh's struggle with flooding | DW Documentary
(DW Documentary)
6. Talks @ Pulitzer: Bangladesh Factory Workers - Rights and Reforms
(Pulitzer Center)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Dr. Pierre Goyette

Last Updated: 24/11/2023

Views: 5845

Rating: 5 / 5 (70 voted)

Reviews: 85% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Dr. Pierre Goyette

Birthday: 1998-01-29

Address: Apt. 611 3357 Yong Plain, West Audra, IL 70053

Phone: +5819954278378

Job: Construction Director

Hobby: Embroidery, Creative writing, Shopping, Driving, Stand-up comedy, Coffee roasting, Scrapbooking

Introduction: My name is Dr. Pierre Goyette, I am a enchanting, powerful, jolly, rich, graceful, colorful, zany person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.