On the 10th anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse, the Make Amazon Pay coalition is urging Amazon to sign the International Accord for health and safety in the textile and garment industry.
The International Accord is a legally binding agreement between more than 200 garment brands and global trade unions with a mission to ensure safe workplaces in the textile and garment industry. It followed the infamous Rana Plaza disaster in April 2013 – the collapse of a multi-storeyed commercial building causing the death of over 1,100 garment factory workers in Bangladesh. The objective of the Accord was to prevent a recurrence of the Rana Plaza disaster by ensuring that the safety of garment workers is prioritized. In 2014, the New York Times hailed the Accord as ‘the most effective campaign of the globalized era’ because of its transformative role in improving working conditions and safety standards in the Bangladeshi garment industry. It established an independent body to inspect factories and set timelines for correcting measures. By May 2018, the joint effort contributed to safer workplaces for over 2 million Bengali workers and has now expanded to Pakistan.
Despite becoming one of the world’s largest apparel retailers, Amazon has failed to sign onto the Accord. ‘A failure to respect the workers producing goods in its supply chains’, said General Secretary of UNI Global Union Christy Hoffman. ‘As we mark the ten-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse, we call on Amazon to sign the Accord and ensure the safety of its workers’. This plea is echoed by the Make Amazon Pay coalition, a coalition consisting of over 400 parliamentarians and 80 organizations from across the Globe advocating for labour rights, tax justice, environmental sustainability, and racial equity. The coalition is united behind a set of common demands that Amazon pays its workers fairly and respects their right to join unions, pays its fair share of taxes and commits to real environmental sustainability. ‘Despite a global revenue of over half a trillion dollars, Amazon still puts its profits above the lives of garment workers in Bangladesh and Pakistan. That’s why today Amazon workers and their allies from around the world – from Britain to Bangladesh – are uniting to demand Amazon sign the Accord’, said Nazma Akter, Progressive International council member and President of the Sommilito Garment Sramik Federation.
Make Amazon Pay already made the headlines last November by organising the first international mobilisation of Amazon workers, with strikes, protests and other actions in over 135 locations in more than 35 countries. The demands focused on long working hours, low wages, the performance evaluation system and job insecurity. Indeed, Amazon's warehouses have a very poor reputation for health and safety at work - with an injury rate twice as high as other similar companies. Another survey by Syndex shows that 74% of employees experience work-related physical pain, and 70% report work-related stress. According to campaign coordinator Daniel Kopp, "Amazon is squeezing every last drop it can out of workers, communities and the planet. On the other hand, Amazon says it offers ‘excellent wages, benefits and development opportunities, all in an attractive and safe working environment’.