Ten years after Rana Plaza: Workers Submit Complaint

Germany – Supply chains – Rana Plaza

10 Years after the devastating collapse of the Rana Plaza textile factory, in which more than 1,100 people died, numerous companies have yet to sign either the Bangladesh Accord (the accord on building and fire safety in Bangladesh) or its successor, the International Accord. The accord is considered to be the only functional mechanism for the improvement of workplace safety worldwide.

Since January 2023, two of these companies – Amazon and IKEA – have fallen under the purview of the German Supply Chain Act. Therefore, garment workers in the Bangladeshi factories of these companies filed the first complaint with the German Federal Office of Economic Affairs and Export Control: the factories have not been adequately monitored, endangering workplace safety for employees. Together with FEMNET, ECCHR is supporting the Bangladeshi union National Garments Workers Federation (NGWF) with the complaint.

Case

In the course of fact-finding research conducted in March 2023, the Bangladeshi union NGWF discovered safety deficiencies in the factories of Tom Tailor, Amazon and IKEA. The companies were informed repeatedly by civil society organizations and unions about the risks to health and safety in factories in Bangladesh and other manufacturing countries. Despite their awareness of existing dangers, they have still not yet signed the accord.

Since 1 January 2023, Amazon and IKEA have been subject to the German Supply Chain Act, which means they are legally obligated to protect people and the environment within their supply lines. Those who refuse to sign the accord are deliberately avoiding their responsibility to prevent known human rights risks within the textile industry and are thus in breach of their due diligence duties.

Represented by the NGWF and with the support of FEMNET and ECCHR, affected workers filed a complaint with BAFA in April 2023.

Already in November 2022, FEMNET and ECCHR addressed Tom Tailor, Deichmann, IKEA and Amazon in an open letter, demanding that these companies sign the accord and fulfill their due diligence responsibilities in the areas of occupational health and safety.

Context

The collapse of Rana Plaza highlighted the failure of voluntary corporate responsibility initiatives. In response, the Bangladesh Accord was introduced and has since become the most successful tool globally for improving occupational safety and health.

Since its inception, the accord has helped avert preventable disasters in the garment industry. Tens of thousands of identified safety hazards have since been eliminated, workers have been trained and informed, and a grievance mechanism has been established to give workers a voice to address workplace safety issues.

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Definition

Due diligence

A company's s human rights due diligence obligations reguire it to manage potential risks to human rights.

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Insight

Corporate responsibility

Both in economic and legal terms, transnational corporations are the winners of the globalized economy. They are often caught up in a borad range of human rights violations, but the people running the firms are only rarely called before the courts, and even more rarely convicted for their wrongdoing.

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