Eight years on from the Rana Plaza tragedy, how much has changed?

In March 2020, dozens of global brands refused to pay for an estimated $40 billion worth of finished goods crafted by garment workers. (PayUp Fashion) This led to workers being laid off without savings or pay-checks, a matter of life and death as families were left to go hungry. Other employees were forced to attend work in dangerous conditions, exposed to the virus in order to receive their wages. (Labour behind the label)

Injustices in the fashion industry are nothing new. It is the eighth anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy, in which at least 1,132 people were killed in one of the worst industrial disasters to date. (ILO)

The disaster highlighted the need for drastic change in the fashion industry, leading to the creation of the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety. 

However, problems are still hugely prevalent eight years later. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the lives of people all over the world upside down, and also deeply impacted how garment workers have been treated. 

Huge power imbalances in the industry means brands can pay up to as late as a year or more after delivery of goods. They’re able to cancel and decline to pay for finished orders, despite factory owners who operate on narrow profit margins having already paid for fabric and labour. 

Thousands were outraged by the injustice, and the campaign #PayUp was born. Spread across social media, the campaign urged brands like brands like Zara, Gap, and Next (PayUp Fashion) to honour agreements and pay suppliers for goods ordered. 

Brands that have paid up after being urged by the petition include ASOS, Adidas, H&M, and Nike. Brands that are yet to pay up and are still in need of focus include Urban Outfitters, Mothercare, Fashion Nova, Asda/George and Forever 21. (Change)

Remake has declared the #PayUp campaign a victory, (remake) as 21 brands have agreed to pay their bills and $22 billion was recuperated. However, it’s difficult to see this as any more than the bare minimum that garment workers deserve. 

Now entering a second phase, #PayUp seeks for businesses to put 7 actions for a fairer working environment into place. (PayUp Fashion) There must particularly be a focus on transparency, as without it there is no accountability for fast fashion retailers in the way their businesses are run. 

Brands need to not only publish their supplier lists, but provide annual data on where their clothes are made as well as how much their workers are paid. This way, we can easily access information about where our clothes really come from and make informed choices.

Momentum for change has started, and it’s our job to keep it going. 

Here’s our top 3 tips on how to get involved:

1 > Sign

Sign the #PayUp petition here to make your voice heard: https://payupfashion.com/#actnow

2 > Post 

Social media allows us to contact and call out brands like never before. It’s worked before and it can work again. Post the hashtag #PayUp on Twitter, tag Urban Outfitters, Mothercare, Fashion Nova, Asda/George and Forever 21 and tell them to pay their workers. 

3 > Buy Ethically 

Make conscious decisions when shopping to ensure you know where your clothes are coming from. Shop our t-shirt to support the Clean Clothes Campaign in improving working conditions and empowering workers. 

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Rachel Wheatman

Writer’s Bio: Rachel has just joined our team as social media lead.

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