Belgian queen visits textile factory in Bangladesh, 10 years after Rana Plaza disaster

Queen Mathilde is on tour in Bangladesh, where she will visit a garment factory on Monday. The visit comes ten years ago after more than 1,000 people were killed when a building collapsed. The disaster led to a security agreement in the Asian country. But, although much has changed, working conditions are still not optimal, writes VRT NWS.

With thousands of textile companies and millions of textile workers, Bangladesh is the centre of the low-cost textile industry. Ten years ago, just outside Dhaka's capital, a large complex collapsed, housing at least five textile factories. In the process, more than 1,000 people lost their lives, while the number of injured rose to 2,500. The textile factories produced clothes for Western chains such as Primark, Walmart and Benetton.

After the disaster, a safety agreement - Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh - was signed between some 200 garment brands and the two world trade unions IndustriALL and UNI, the initiative of the Clean Clothes Campaign. The global network is dedicated to improving working conditions and empowering international garment and sportswear workers. However, while H&M, Zara and C&A signed the safety agreement, Decathlon and Walmart did not.

Financial support

With the agreement, garment brands undertook to provide financial support if factory operators did not have sufficient funds to invest more in safety. On the other hand, the agreement stipulated that garment brands could no longer buy clothes from factories that refused to invest in increased security. Moreover, unions could force brands that did not comply with the accord's adjustments.

Although much has improved in the sector today, the agreement applied to only a portion of textile factories: some 1,800, less than half the total number of textile factories in Bangladesh.

The factory that the Belgian queen will visit on Monday is considered a model factory and operates according to International Labour Organisation recommendations. Nevertheless, as a promoter of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, Queen Mathilde realises that the state of the industry is anything but ideal.

Queen Mathilde is in the region for a three-day visit. Besides the garment factory, she will visit a Rohingya refugee camp, a Muslim minority persecuted in neighbouring Myanmar. The trip will also discuss Bangladesh's vulnerability to floods and the impact of climate change in general.


© Joy Saha/ZUMA Press Wire

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