Bangladeshi rescue workers search for victims amid the rubble of a collapsed building in Savar, Bangladesh, on April 26, 2013.
Bangladesh's Anti-Corruption Commission has charged 18 people for breaching regulations that contributed to the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Savar, Bangladesh, last year. The collapse, on April 24, 2013, killed more than 1,130 people in what is one of the world's worst industrial accidents to date.
Mohammad Sohel Rana, the owner of the building, and his parents were among the 18 accused, along with the mayor of the town of Savar and three garment factory owners who worked in the Rana Plaza factory.
The Rana Plaza — which manufactured clothing for more than 40 brands including Wal-Mart, J.C. Penney's and the popular British retailer Primark — was built on swampy ground, and Pranab Kumar Bhattachajee, a spokesman for the Anti-Corruption Commission, told Reuters that investigations found that the 18 accused had "grossly breached the building code."
Of those breached codes, Bhattachajee noted that municipal officials gave permission to add extra floors in the Rana Plaza factory without the authority to do so.
Following the incident, Western companies in both Europe and the U.S. funded millions of dollars to form the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh with the goal to investigate the safety of "around 1,600 garment factories" over the next five years. Similarly, 26 U.S. companies, including Gap, Macy's and Target, funded the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety initiative with the same goal of investigating factory safety.
On the first anniversary of the collapse, Bangladeshis held emotional memorials to remember the thousands that died, but also protest the fact that little has been done in the way of fixing the problem.
While the European initiative has suspended production of some factories deemed unfit, factory owners have complained that some companies have not fixed problems that have been found after the inspections.
All the while, the garment industry continues to boom as inspections halt production for fixes, which results in workers losing already low wages, further complicating things.
Bangladesh's garment industry is one of the biggest exporters of clothing to the U.S. and Europe, in part because of those low wages, according to a New York Times editorial. According to critics, those low labor costs and circumventable building codes make Bangladesh an attractive option for the clothing business.
In the year after the Rana Plaza collapse, the industry continued to grow, despite revealing the extent of Bangladesh's industrial safety problems. The industry saw a 16% rise in exports to $23.9 billion from April 2013 to March 2014, according to a local report..
Campaigns like Cost of Fashion, however, continue to put pressure on companies that signed the accord initiative in the year after the collapse. Bangladesh's prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s administration allowed workers to unionize without a factory owner's permission shortly after the disaster. Since then, 140 unions have registered, according to the International Labor Organization.
Tags: BANGLADESH, FACTORY, FASHION INDUSTRY, UNIONS, US & World, WORLD