Bangladeshi police on Monday formally filed murder charges against 41 people for the Rana Plaza factory collapse over two years ago that killed 1,138 workers—most of them women—in what is is believed to be the worst single tragedy in the history of the world’s garment industry.
Among those charged are building owner Sohel Rana, his parents, owners of other nearby factories, and government officials. If they are found guilty, the defendants could face the death penalty.
However, officials from the numerous Western retail corporations that did business with the factory—including Walmart, The Children’s Place, Benetton, Zara, and Mango—were not named among those facing charges.
This is despite the fact that the factory disaster shined a global spotlight on the complicity of U.S.- and Europe-headquartered corporations in the dangerous conditions, abuse, and retaliation rampant throughout Bangladesh’s garment industry—which has the lowest wages in the world.
On April 24, 2013, workers were forced by their employers to enter the Rana Plaza factory, located in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka, despite expressing concern about visible cracks in the walls. The subsequent collapse and tragedy sparked record worker protests in Bangladesh and solidarity demonstrations across the world.
But years later, survivors and loved ones of the deceased say they still haven’t received adequate compensation, and poor conditions persist across the industry, which employs roughly 4 million people.
Vikas Bajaj wrote in The New York Times that the charges, nonetheless, are significant “in part because factory owners wield a tremendous amount of power in Bangladesh.”
“But filing charges is just the first step,” Bajaj continued. “Now the government has to hold fair and speedy trials for these 41 people. It also needs to do more to help the victims of Rana Plaza. Many victims or their surviving families have not received all of the compensation they are owed. That is in part because Western clothing companies have not contributed enough money to a compensation fund that is overseen by the International Labor Organization.”
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