• Friday, Jul 01, 2022
  • Last Update : 04:24 pm

Rana Plaza survivors battle unemployment 8 years after tragedy

  • Published at 09:57 pm April 22nd, 2021
Rana Plaza_Zakir
File photo: Work in progress to rescue the people trapped inside the debris of the collapsed Rana Plaza building on April 24, 2013 Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

So far, 12% survivors have returned to the RMG sector, while another 12% are now involved in tailoring

Eight years since the Rana Plaza tragedy, the sufferings of the survivors have only worsened amid the pandemic — where nearly 57% of the survivors are still unemployed.

So far, 12% survivors have returned to the RMG sector, while another 12% are now involved in tailoring.

Although 43% survivors are engaged in waged labour and self-employment, due to deteriorating health conditions, they have to make a living by changing their work from time to time.

And the health condition of 14% survivors is getting worse, according to a survey conducted by ActionAid Bangladesh. 

The survey was conducted among 200 survivors of the disaster. 

These findings were disclosed at a virtual dialogue titled “COVID-19: Challenges for the Rana Plaza Tragedy Survivors” on Thursday, organized by ActionAid Bangladesh in memory of the eighth anniversary of the tragedy. 

Rana plaza was the worst disaster ever in the Bangladeshi apparel industry that left at least 1,136 people dead and more than 2,500 people injured, some of them crippled for life, at Savar, just outside capital Dhaka.

On April 24, 2013, thousands of workers were busy working at the factory where clothes are sourced by major international brands when the nine-story Rana Plaza building buckled and collapsed. 

In most households, there is only a single earner whose income reduced due to the outbreak of Covid-19. 

A total of 37.5% said their household income is between Tk5,000 – Tk10,300, while 29.5% have a household income between Tk10,300 and Tk15,300.

Majority of survivors have an average expenditure of over Tk10,000 with major costs incurred for food, followed by house-rent, children’s education and treatment.

Speaking at the dialogue, Research Director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Khondokar Golam Moazzem said that since the Rana Plaza collapse, there has been no positive change in the victims’ lives. 

Despite some financial assistance, the process of reintegration of injured workers into the formal sector has not been introduced, he added.

“About 57% of the surviving workers have no job, while the rest have some kind of informal job. This means that we have not yet been able to create a value chain that allows these injured workers to join a formal job,” he said.

He urged the government to include Rana Plaza survivors in the Tk10 crore aid package for marginalized people.

Country Director of ActionAid Bangladesh Farah Kabir, while moderating the event, said that even in eight years, the condition of surviving workers is not satisfactory. 

“We have to come out of the colonial mentality and fulfil the just demands of the workers. Accidents could happen again at any time,” she added.

“An employment protection scheme should be introduced through a central fund for workers. We have to insist on bringing everyone under insurance. A new skills project needs to be introduced for those who are injured and away from work,” she further said.

“We have to change the mentality towards the workers. We have to take initiative to meet their expectations. And for the implementation of these, the government, the owners, NGOs, media all have to work together,” Kabir added.

The Country Director of ILO Country Office for Bangladesh Tuomo Poutiainen said there is a requirement to improve security and governance on labour issues, and this needs institutional change. 

“We have to create a culture of health safety for workers in factories and the government needs to enact legislation to ensure this.”

And for that, Poutiainen suggested creating new jobs by increasing investment in collaboration with the government, industry, and the workers.

“In this current Covid-19 situation, we see a tremendous need for social protections, necessity to build accident insurance, we have to work together to build a real, universal and contributory employment system which will start from the RMG sector,” he added.

Dr Hameeda Hossain, convener of Sramik Nirapotta Forum (SNF), called for ensuring the safety of workers by creating safety committees and insurance schemes.

Attending as the chief guest at the dialogue, Member of Parliament Shirin Akhter said trade unions, employers and the government can work together to create a good working environment, transparency, and accountability in the factories. 

“If we can confirm all these things, we can say that we have been able to bring positive changes by learning from the horrors of the Rana Plaza incident,” she added.

She called on the trade unions to negotiate with the RMG owners to see if the incentive announced by the government during Covid-19 is being properly allotted to the workers. She also requested the employers to arrange rations for the workers.

Werner Lange, cluster coordinator of Textile and Leather at GIZ, also spoke at the dialogue.

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