Rana Plaza tragedy initiated struggle to improve workers’ rights: US ambassador

The Solidarity Center, the Industrial Bangladesh Council, and The Daily Star hosted a roundtable roundtable to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy.

US ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas today laid emphasis on "collective work and commitment" to continue progress in creating sustainable manufacturing that will support workers, the industry, and the economy, reports UNB.

"And only then will we be able to hold true to our collective response of saying, -- never again," he said while speaking at stakeholders' roundtable to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy.

The Solidarity Center, the Industrial Bangladesh Council, and The Daily Star hosted the event.

Ten years ago, on 24 April, the Rana Plaza building collapsed, killing more than 1,100 workers and injuring thousands more.

Rana Plaza was the worst-ever industrial accident to hit the garment industry in Bangladesh.

"It was also the beginning of a renewed struggle to improve workers' rights and ensure safe factories for all," said ambassador Haas.

He said they were there to honor the memory of those workers by reimagining a Bangladesh with safer working conditions, greater rights for workers, and increased accountability among all stakeholders - governments, brands, manufacturers, suppliers, consumers, workers, and trade unions.

Haas said he was pleased to say that because of the tireless efforts of many, they have seen positive changes, particularly in the RMG export sector.

"Today, garment factories are safer due to agreements among unions, global brands, and employers who worked together under the former Accord and Alliance," said the US envoy.

The Bangladesh has also done important work in the last decade to build a stronger body of labor laws and policies, he said.

Bangladesh has digitized the trade union registration process, which should help workers form unions and complete their registrations in a timely fashion.

They have also digitized the labor inspection system to improve data accessibility and transparency.

"This is tremendous progress. But it is nowhere near enough. As Bangladesh moves to graduate from LDC status, more will be expected of it," said the ambassador.

Not only that, but in order to become a smart, developed Bangladesh by 2024, workers safety and labor rights will need to become ingrained in Bangladesh's ethos, he said.

Health and safety standards must protect everyone no matter where their products end up, and no matter where they work, said the envoy.

The rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining are enabling rights for the realization of all other labor rights, he said.

Haas said all stakeholders must be held accountable for workplace safety and labor rights.

Improving occupational safety and health and labor rights is a shared responsibility, he said.

"Government, manufacturers, brands, buyers, workers, unions, and consumers each have a crucial role to play to make sure that goods are produced safely and that everyone in the process earns a fair return."

"We are at an important moment of reimagining the future of Bangladesh as it marches towards developed country status. The full realization of labor rights will help pave the way to this future," ambassador Haas said.

"So let us imagine a future where workers are empowered to raise their voices against abusive labor practices through democratic independent unions," he added.