AN APPEAL launched by the Church of Bangladesh through the
Anglican Alliance has raised $16,000 for workers affected by the
collapse of a clothing factory in Bangladesh last year.
Just as new building-regulation laws are being launched in the
country, the appeal has provided financial support and resources to
workers from the illegally built Rana Plaza factory, in which more
than 1100 people died, and 2500 more were injured, in April last
year (Comment, 17 May 2013).
The Alliance, with a global coalition of Churches, launched a
campaign for justice and accountability for the garment workers in
September last year (News, 13 September). It called on the
Government and Western importers to provide a fair wage and decent
working conditions for employees.
The Rana Plaza factory made ready-to-wear garments for the
United States and European retailers, including Matalan and Primark
in the UK. The collapse of the eight-storey building is considered
Bangladesh's worst industrial accident.
The Moderator of the Church of Bangladesh, the Rt Revd Paul
Sarker, has led the call for change in the country. At the time of
the collapse, he criticised the owners of the factory, saying: "The
garment manufacturers are rich, powerful and greedy. . . People in
Bangladesh are suffering from many problems because of corruption
and lack of moral values of the leaders and powerful."
Pressure put on stakeholdershas meant that the industry and
conditions have improved for workers in the past year. It was
announced on Tuesday that a coalition of more than 120
international clothing companies, the Accord on Fire and Building
Safety in Bangladesh, has finalised fire-, electrical-, and
building-inspection standards for all Bangladeshi factories.
Inspections will begin this month, and a team hopes to have
inspected all 1500 member factories by September.
The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers & Exporters Association
(BGMEA), however, has said that orders have nearly halved in the
past three months - the worst drop in two decades - leaving the
industry in a precarious economic situation.
The disruption to business caused by the collapse of the factory
has been augmented by the violence that surrounded the national
elections on 5 January. The Bangladeshi garment industry is worth
$22 billion, and is responsible for 13 per cent of the country's
But BGMEA estimates that $1-billion-worth of business could be
in jeopardy if the situation does not improve by June. The
livelihoods of the 4.12 million people employed in the industry
remain at risk, too, if political unrest continues.