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Humans · Economy

Inside out - The Fashion Revolution campaigns for consumers' awareness of working conditions

May 29th, 2014
in:Humans, Economy
by:Kay Alexander Plonka
located in:Bangladesh
tags:Adler Modemärkte, Bangladesh, C&A, fashion industry, Güldenpfennig, KANZ/Kids Fashion Group, KiK, NKD, Rana Plaza, working conditions

The outrage was great when about a year ago, on 24 April 2013, the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed and thousands of textile workers were left buried. More than 1,100 people died, and over 1,500 more were severely injured. And still today, the bereaved and injured wait for adequate compensation. One year after the disaster, the compensation fund has not even reached halfway point – there is still around $25 million missing.

On the initiative of the Bangladeshi trade unions, the Clean Clothes Campaign, and the international trade union association IndustriALL, the fund had been set up under the supervision of the International Labour Organization (ILO). At least $40 million will be needed in future to permit the necessary payments for medical expenses and loss of earnings, in accordance with ILO Convention.

The first anniversary of the disaster provided an opportunity not only to commemorate the victims, but also to publicly remind all those companies that had a relationship with any of the factories in the Rana Plaza of their obligation to comply with provision of the relief fund.

Fashion Revolution Day was founded to commemorate the anniversary, and as a day on which people around the world would wear their clothes inside out. In so doing, they would help bring into the public consciousness the question of where garments are actually made​​, and who makes them. Also involved with the project was the SUBURBIA store in Dusseldorf (www.suburbia-store.de).

On this day, customers, politicians and students from the local fashion academy were photographed in the SUBURBIA store for Fashion Revolution’s Instagram and Facebook campaigns, together with banners highlighting the main issues. ‘We wanted to be there to help set the revolution in motion and convince consumers and producers to rethink,’explains store owner Renate Hunfeld Addison.

‘Bangladesh is an important producer and it should stay that way; this is what the country and its people live from. Whether it’s Boss or KiK, all the major labels use production in Bangladesh. But what needs to change is how this process works: the fact that workers are badly paid, that they are treated like slaves and forced to work under the most dangerous conditions. And because nothing happens by itself– as we have seen in the year since the accident– Fashion Revolution Day was launched.

‘Still nothing has been improved for workers’conditions in the textile factories,’Hunfeld Addison continues.‘In the wake of Fashion Revolution Day we have to continue to bring attention to the problems. Despite numerous controls and voluntary commitments by companies, accidents of such magnitude happen because human and labour rights are ignored in favour of profits. There is a need in the future for an independent review of compliance with social and environmental standards.’

Among the companies that had their products made in the Rana Plaza were big American players like Walmart and JC Penney, the Irish discounter Primark, the Italian Benetton Group, the fashion retailer Mango and the Spanish department store chain El Corte Ingles. Also involved were numerous German textile discounters like KiK, Adler Modemärkte, NKD, KANZ/Kids Fashion Group, Güldenpfennig and C&A. Some of these companies have paid either nothing or too little into the fund.

Even in the days after the worst factory accident to afflict the Bangladeshi textile industry, companies like Mango behaved with little honour. Initially the Spanish trader denied that it had made use of production in the Rana Plaza building. Only after the New York Times was able to provide more evidence that Mango products were sewn in the Rana Plaza, did the company admit that it produced there. Nevertheless, Mango long refused any payment, before an about-turn at the end of February, when it paid an undisclosed sum into the compensation fund.

The discounter KiK behaved little better, and immediately after the disaster claimed to have last produced in one of the factories of the Rana Plaza back in 2008. Shortly afterwards, union activists found numerous KiK clothes among the rubble. After the Clean Clothes Campaign made ​​the findings public, KiK announced that textiles had been produced in the building, but without the knowledge of the company–there then followed a barrage of perfidious excuses.

In early April, KiK officially announced that the company had paid $500,000 into the fund and donated a further $500,000. Given a 2012 turnover of around 1.75 billion Euros, the large amount of clothing found at the site of the accident, and the fact that KiK has repeatedly been associated with serious industrial accidents in Pakistan and Bangladesh, the figure is a drop in the ocean.

Worse still, other German clothes companies have simply taken cover and have yet to do anything. The Clean Clothes Campaign calls on all companies involved to finally make substantial contributions to the compensation fund. Only in this way can the surviving victims and dependents of Rana Plaza be ensured of a dignified existence.

Follow the link to support the Clean Clothes Campaign with their petition.

Credits: Fotos: Sebastian Damberger and Fritz Straube, Haar und Make Up: Favoriten

Article written by:
Kay Alexander Plonka
Author
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