In the wake of the clothing revolution

15.4.2021

Next week is Clothing Week, but what exactly is it about?

8 years ago, from our point of view, the world was contemporary in its pattern and we spent weirdly wondering where our clothes came from (me at least). There was sometimes an uproar over the use of child labor, but the uproar around the matter had already subsided. Then a clothing factory collapsed in Bangladesh, ending in the lives of 1134 people. Thousands were injured, after all, the Rana Plaza factory was the workplace of about 5000 people.

This tragic accident brought a once-in-a-lifetime awareness to many of how clothes could be made in poor working conditions.

Aftershocks began to reach us when piles of clothes with the logos of familiar brands were found while clearing the ruins. Rana Plaza made clothes that most of us might well have in their own closets. The skeleton in the wardrobe had suddenly crashed for all to see. The clothing industry held its breath: whose products can be found next?

Bangladesh Accord is born

The saddest thing is that the collapse of Rana Plaza did not come as a surprise. The factory workers had noted with concern the cracks in the structures, but they were not allowed to stop production.

Hardly any of the clothing companies involved, knowing the situation, would have demanded the resumption of production at the risk of a major accident and loss of life. However, we were now in a situation where the subcontractor 's severe production pressures, weak infrastructure and the weak position of the workers had the most tragic possible consequences. Fortunately, however, the consequences did not remain here.

Numerous factory fires had also occurred in Bangladesh before the collapse, and with the Rana Plaza accident, the endurance limit was finally exceeded. Now the general public was also awake and the pressure on the manufacturing companies was strong.

The pressure gave rise to the Bangladesh Accord, an agreement in which global brands and retailers agreed with unions * to develop fire and construction safety in Bangladeshi garment factories.

The first five-year, legally binding agreement was signed by more than 220 garment companies in Bangladesh. It covered more than 1600 clothing factories and more 2 million employees.

What did the agreement achieve?

An initial survey was carried out at the mills to check fire and electrical safety and the safety of the structures. Inspection reports and proposed corrections were published and led to corrections and 25 follow-up revisions.

During the first five-year period 2013-2018, 50 plants were also temporarily evacuated where a risk of collapse was identified and production was halted for the duration of the repair.

The companies that signed the agreement undertook to provide financial assistance or various arrangements to ensure that the factory owners had access to the required repairs.

During the contract period, 1,4 million employees received safety training, and the contract created opportunities for employees to complain about occupational safety incidents.

At the end of the five-year period, however, there was still work to be done; the repair work had not yet been completed and, among other things, the installation of fire alarms was in progress in some factories. The agreement was further extended by a transitional agreement, during which Accord's operations will be transferred to national control.

Read more about Bangladesh Accord from here.

It is safe to say that the Bangladesh Accord brought a significant improvement to the garment industry workers in Bangladesh. It also showed that even major changes can be brought about at a rapid pace with the cooperation of various parties.

However, the world of the clothing industry is still far from complete.

The clothing revolution

At the same time as the Rana Plaza accident prompted unions and manufacturing companies to enter into an agreement, there was also a strong need for citizens to make an impact. The movement gave birth to The Fashion Revolution movement, which drives better working conditions and more environmentally friendly production in the clothing industry.

Fashion Revolution organizes an annual Clothing Revolution campaign during the anniversary of the Rana Plaza accident. The message of the campaign is transparency. Clothing production can no longer be hidden or relied on ignorance. Fashion Revolution encourages companies to tell us who makes our clothes, and under what circumstances. Anyone interested is welcome to ask: Who Made My CIothes?

Do you want to be involved? See instructions From the Fashion Revolution website.

 

*IndustriALL Global Union ja UNI Global Union, as well as 8 local associations

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