Garment worker views post-Rana Plaza

Photo of the skyline of Bibir Bagicha, which is a neighborhood in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The photo is taken at night, and the sky appears overcast, with light coming through the clouds.

Paradigm shift or business as usual? Workers’ views on multi-stakeholder initiatives in Bangladesh

Peer-reviewed research by: Dr Naila Kabeer, Lopita Huq, Dr Munshi Sulaiman

2023 will mark 10 years since the Rana Plaza building collapse, a disaster increasingly forgotten by consumer stakeholders in the Global North. Yet the scale and scope of Rana Plaza has since cast a shadow on multi-stakeholder initiatives aimed at supporting garment workers rights in Bangladesh. The initiatives that emerged in the wake of the collapse brought with them promises that working conditions in the ready-made garment sector would improve. In this important article, the authors consider power dynamics, and focus their attention on worker perceptions. What do workers think? Check out the abstract below, and then click through to the article to read more.  


The scale of the tragedy at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh, in which more than 1,000 garment factory workers died when the building collapsed in April 2013, galvanized a range of stakeholders to take action to prevent future disasters and to acknowledge that business as usual was not an option. Prominent in these efforts were the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (hereafter the Accord) and the Alliance for Bangladesh Workers’ Safety (hereafter the Alliance), two multi-stakeholder agreements that brought global buyers together in a coordinated effort to improve health and safety conditions in the ready-made garment industry. These agreements represented a move away from the buyer-driven, compliance-based model, which hitherto dominated corporate social responsibility initiatives, to a new cooperation-based approach. The Accord in particular, which included global union federations and their local union partners as signatories and held global firms legally accountable, was described as a ‘paradigm shift’ with the potential to improve industrial democracy in Bangladesh. This article is concerned with the experiences and perceptions of workers in the Bangladesh garment industry regarding these new initiatives. It uses a purposively designed survey to explore the extent to which these initiatives brought about improvements in wages and working conditions in the garment industry, to identify where change was slowest or absent and to ask whether the initiatives did indeed represent a paradigm shift in efforts to enforce the rights of workers.

Click here to read the full open-access article, published in 2020 in the journal Development and Change.

Full Reference //

Kabeer, N., Huq, L. and Sulaiman, M. (2020), Paradigm Shift or Business as Usual? Workers’ Views on Multi-stakeholder Initiatives in Bangladesh. Development and Change, 51: 1360-1398.

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).

Knowledge Stitch amplifies open-access peer-reviewed academic research. If you have research you would like readers to check out, click here to suggest your work.

Leave a Reply

Scroll to Top