Published on 24/04/19

This morning I was among representatives from Ethical Clothing Australia (ECA) who attended a service organised by the union movement to commemorate the garment workers who lost their lives and were injured during the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh on April 24th, 2013.


The collapse of Rana Plaza reportedly took less than 90 seconds, killing 1,134 people and injuring thousands more. It happened despite the local workers having expressed concerns about their safety, as cracks had begun to appear in the building.


It is well known the garment workers killed and injured in the event were making clothing for companies overseas and it was management’s decision to keep working despite the concerns (along with a reported threat to withhold wages if the employees did not keep working).


While there have been many other industrial disasters and horrific examples of exploitation in this industry, this tragic and avoidable event now stands as a wake-up call to the industry and it has propelled many working in the industry to action and to call for change.


At this morning’s service a minute’s silence was observed in memory of those who lost their lives and those who were injured. A wreath was also presented. It is difficult to comprehend the impact of this tragedy on the children, parents and families of those who lost loved ones.


The Fashion Revolution movement was born out of the Rana Plaza tragedy and now Fashion Revolution Week is an important annual campaign drawing attention to the rights and lives of garment workers – the people who make our clothes.


Six years on from Rana Plaza, this week is as important as ever as it encourages companies to do better, to share the stories of their workers and because it encourages individuals to take action.


While Ethical Clothing Australia is an accreditation body focused on protecting the rights and wages of textile, clothing and footwear (TCF) workers in Australia, we support the work of Fashion Revolution.


No matter in what country a garment worker lives they should have the right to fair pay and entitlements, and safe working conditions are fundamental. Sadly, we know that this is not the case for many workers around the world and it can be the case in Australia.


Our organisation was created by the local textile, clothing and footwear union and business representatives and employer groups coming together to create an accreditation body that upholds and protects of workers in the industry. In turn, it also gives consumers confidence that there has been no exploitation of the workers in the supply chains of the businesses accredited by ECA. It means that shoppers can buy with confidence because there’s been an independent audit undertaken.


We should not benefit from the exploitation of others. We should not be able to purchase cheap clothing at the expense of someone else – be it through underpayments or at the expense of someone’s health.


Rana Plaza has demonstrated, on a massive scale, what happens when greed and production deadlines are put ahead of the safety of those making our clothes. Thankfully it has not been forgotten and the Fashion Revolution campaign continues with increasing interest from those who want to be part of a better industry and with increasing interest from consumers. This gives me hope for the future as we cannot forget what happened, we should not turn a blind eye to the exploitation and abuse that continues today.


This morning’s service was hosted by the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Sector of the Manufacturing Division of the CFMEU and Australia Asia Worker Links. Thank you to Nobody Denim for hosting at their factory and to the workers who participated in the event.