Two years today, the collapse of a garment workers’ factory in Rana Plaza killing 1,134 people caused the global community to question again the need for better regulations within the fashion industry.
Last night, People Tree joined the ‘Rana Plaza 2 Years On-Long Road to Justice Walking Tour’ organised by War on Want and Labour Behind the Label, calling on the high street fashion brands who sourced at the factories to pay compensation that was agreed- and is still owed -to the families and individual workers affected.
There were over fifty protestors gathered initially outside the front of Vogue UK’s HQ. The ‘tour’ then moved down Hanover Street to gather outside H&M, where Sarah Ditty of Policy Director of Fashion Revolution Day spoke to the growing crowd about the compensation that was still owed by H&M to the garment workers and calls for safer working practices.
The group then crossed the road and actually went into the ground floor of Benetton. A bold move for those of us that are not used to promoting awareness of issues in this way. The shoppers in Benetton and the staff looked surprised, but seemed interested to understand why we were there. A speaker from War on Want reminded us that all it would take to pay the workers a decent wage and for them to work in safe conditions is to pay an extra 1-3% on our garments: so for a £10 item that’s only an extra 10p. She asked “who wouldn’t want to pay that to double their wage?”
Clare Nally, People Tree’s Supply Chain Coordinator asked one of the protesters, Julie Askins, why was she involved? Julie told Clare that her mother and grandmother had worked in the mills and fought for their rights and so she wanted to continue to support the cause for all garment workers.
Clare’s role at People Tree means that she has spoken directly to families of victims of garment factories disasters in the past and says that in her experience:
“ It actually means so much to the victims and their families, that people care, and that they are not just ‘forgotten people’. Many garment workers have the impression that because they are poor, people view them as dispensable. It gives them courage and strength to know that people in the UK are fighting their corner and communicating to the brands involved that they need to take responsibility and pay proper compensation. Garment workers have little access to justice without support from groups like Labour Behind the Label and War On Want. Generally they are poor; uneducated and maybe illiterate. Individually they have no way of getting in touch with large fashion brands, and even if they could, the brand would have no motivation to provide them with relief and compensation. The only reason brands do, is because groups like Labour Behind the Label and War On Want organise the general public to petition and campaign, and brands are worried about their image, and so they start to engage eventually.”
What struck me the most was the interest shown from the general public, as we were walking along Oxford Circus, the general group of protesters were shouting “Shame on You” – which attracted attention- as did the police van that arrived when we had all moved into the ground floor of Zara. I was not anticipating that we would ‘take over’ Zara- but stood on the periphery, I was able to speak to those who were interested in what was happening- including one police man- who surreptitiously pocketed the leaflet we were handing out and told me that he would read it later when he was ‘off duty’.
The walk ended peacefully. It was a short excursion, but of course we need to go further to ensure that the heartbreak of Rana Plaza is not repeated.
Today is Fashion Revolution Day #FASHREV and we would love you to get involved by asking brands “Who made my clothes?” and sharing your pictures with us on Twitter and Facebook.
For a list of events that are happening today and this weekend, please see http://fashionrevolution.org/
People Tree have also put together a lovely ‘edit’ of how you can get involved with Fashion Revolution Day: http://view.ceros.com/people-tree/fashion-revolution-day-2015/
For more information about Rana Plaza, 2 years on, please see:
http://www.labourbehindthelabel.org/urgent-actions/item/1299-join-the-global-day-of-action-to-remember-rana-plaza-2015 and http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/23/rana-plaza-collapse-compensation-fund-has-6m-shortfall-two-years-on