Today (Sunday) is the ninth anniversary of the world's biggest industrial disaster-Rana Plaza collapse- in Savar of Dhaka.
On this day (24th April) in 2013, Rana Plaza building collapsed, killing 1,138 people. Most of the victims were garment workers who worked in one of the five factories in the eight-storey building.
Nine years on, the struggle for safe factories still persists as some major garment and textile brands continue to refuse to put their workers' safety first, according to an international Clean Clothes Campaign network, founded in the Netherlands in 1989.
Several widely known brands, such as Levi's and IKEA, have over the past nine years refused to join the safety mechanism that was created in response to the collapse.
This programme is now in its third iteration as the International Accord.
The global network said some 171 brands sourcing from Bangladesh have signed this agreement, including fast fashion giants like H&M, Inditex (Zara), and Fast Retailing (UNIQLO). At least 106 brands are yet to sign this agreement as of April 21, 2022.
Although a survey said those yet to sign are making profits from the efforts of the other brands who made the wake-up call for the industry after the Rana Plaza collapse.
By refusing to join and pay into the programme, but still sourcing from the factories that are being improved by this programme, Levi's and IKEA are free riding on the efforts of these brands.
The Clean Clothes Campaign network therefore calls upon IKEA, Levi's and all other non-signatories, including Gap, Target, VF Corporation (The North Face), and Canadian Tire to sign the Accord.
Md Kamrul Hassan, general secretary of Akota Garments Worker Federation (AGWF), said: "Workers need to be sure that they are not risking their lives when they go to work. This is a basic right"
He added the Accord has done important work to ensure factories are made safer, yet brands like Levi's, IKEA and also Gap, Walmart and others are refusing to join.
He also said only a system where unions are part of the solution can bring change to the garment industry. All brands that source from Bangladesh must sign the International Accord now if they care about their workers safety.
However, owner of the Rana plaza, Abdul Khaleque, died from Covid-19 at his residence in Savar upazila in June 2020.
In the meantime, labour rights organisations have chalked out many programmes to mark the day.
Ms Nazma Akter, secretary of Awaz Foundation, a local labour rights group, told the FE that like many other labour right organisations, they will also visit the premises of Rana Plaza in Savar today (Sunday) to pay tributes to the workers who lost their lives in the building collapse.
The right groups have been raising demand for long to construct residential buildings or hospitals there for the welfare of the garment workers.
At least 2,500 wounded workers are still alive.