Parallel Government, Privatization, Soft Law, Jobber's Contract, Union Power, and/or Ngo Leverage?: The Many Meanings of Progress after the Rana Plaza Disaster.

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 16:30
Location: Hörsaal 50 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Robert J.S. ROSS, Clark University, USA
The passing of the second anniversary (April 24, 2013) of the death of 1138 workers at the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Savar, Bangladesh witnessed incremental improvements in factory and worker safety and the realistic promise of more accomplishments in the next two years.  These improvements have been obtained through three separate but overlapping initiatives. These are the buyer membership Accord on Fire and Building Safety In Bangladesh [“the Accord”], the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety [“the Alliance”] and the government’s National Tripartite Plan of Action [“Tripartite Plan”]. The Accord, as of 2015, appears to be the most significant of these initiatives, and certainly the one most influenced by the local labour movement, its international labour movement allies, and the international NGOs associated with the antisweatshop campaigns of the last two decades.

There are numerous perspectives from which the Accord and Alliance may be analyzed or criticized. The title suggests each of them. The paper sets two contexts within which these terms may be relevant. One context is the cruel constraints posed by the Race to the Bottom and what Ross and Chan called South-South competition. Original and up-to-date data based extracted from US Department of Commerce and WTO databases will set this context. The second is the local context of Bangladesh governance and interviews gleaned from a field trip occasioned by the 2015 anniversary.  These come together (or clash) as the allies of the relatively weak Bangladesh labour movement uses global allies to obtain local leverage. The result requires reflection.  The paper will include material subsequent to 2015, collected from NGO and Bangladeshi contacts.