Rana Plaza Factory Collapse Anniversary Wake Up Call for The Just Group and Best&Less

Fair Trade & Workers Rights, Media Releases, News article written on the 24 Apr 2014

The anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse should act as a wake-up call to companies sourcing from Bangladesh to do more to improve worker safety, Oxfam Australia said today.

Exactly one year ago today, 1,138 men and women were killed and 2,500 injured when the eight-storey Rana Plaza building collapsed in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka. Large cracks had been discovered in building the day before the disaster, but workers were forced to return to work despite fears about their safety.

Corporate Accountability and Fair Trade advisor Daisy Gardener said the preventable disaster had sent a shock wave around the world, catching the attention of clothing companies and their customers.

“The terrifying news footage of the Rana Plaza factory collapse brought home the human cost of affordable fashions,” Ms Gardener said.

“Over the past year, we have seen unprecedented numbers of people around the world pressure companies to take responsibility for the safety of workers in their supply chains.

“While most major clothing companies in Australia have signed up to the legally binding Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord, The Just Group and Best&Less are still out in the cold.”

Following the collapse, Oxfam met with Australian companies to call on them to help improve the safety situation by signing the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord, a legally-binding agreement, which mandates independent factory fire and structural inspections, and prompt repairs.

Thousands of Australian consumers joined the call, making their concerns known on companies’ own Facebook pages – and most companies listened.

Kmart was first to sign the accord, followed by Target, Cotton On Group, Forever New, Specialty Fashion Group (Rivers, Katies), Woolworths (Big W), Pretty Girl Fashion (Rockmans) and Pacific Brands (Bonds, Berlei).

A year after the collapse, Best&Less and the Just Group, owner of popular brands Just Jeans and Jay Jays, are still resisting.

“Whilst it’s a positive sign that the Just Group have joined another safety initiative called the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, this agreement has been criticised for being a significantly weaker process and for not being legally-binding,” Ms Gardener said.

“The Just Group and Best&Less need to join global brands in signing on to the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord to help ensure that Bangladeshi workers are no longer forced to risk their lives for fashion.”

A staggering 1,800 people have died in factory fires and collapses in the Bangladesh garment industry in the past 10 years. With more than 150 companies now signed up to the legally binding Bangladesh accord, The Just Group and Best&Less can have no more excuses.

For interviews or more information, please contact Angus Hohenboken on 0428367318 or angush@oxfam.org.au