By Caroline Morvan
“Workers are dying in preventable factory fires because the world’s leading retailers – from Walmart to Gap to H&M – make their clothes in countries where labor laws are not enforced and demand that their contract factories slash production costs to the bone. Factories meet the apparel companies’ relentless demands for lower prices by ignoring workers’ rights and safety. In Bangladesh, the world’s second-largest apparel producer, this has led to a series of horrific fires.”
Apparel companies claim they are regularly inspecting their factories and ensuring that they are safe, yet every deadly fire in recent years has happened at a factory that had been subject to numerous such inspections. It is impossible to imagine a more dismal record of failure.” ~Scott Nova and Liana Foxvog
Every year thousands of factory workers in countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan die while working for the sake of “High Fashion”. Unsafe conditions, like locked exits and barred windows, made the death tolls much higher.
Unfortunately, these human rights violations are all too common for a variety of reasons, among them, poor government oversight. Lax certification processes grant permits to multistory facilities with poor electrical wiring, no external fire escapes or fire extinguishers, and there is ineffective auditing to identify and remediate fire threats.
Meanwhile, trade unions, collective bargaining and worker advocacy are not encouraged, but rather suppressed.
But because the apparel industry has become exceedingly price sensitive, the protection of human rights, including workplace safety in low wage countries like Bangladesh, remains a secondary priority. Until the day that workplace risks are factored into apparel price analyses, devastating factory fires will remain a threat.
While Americans are fond of low prices for clothing, some are possible only because workers in Bangladesh and Pakistan (among other countries) toil in sweatshops for meager wages, in dangerous conditions.
On April 24, 2013, Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza garment factory building collapsed, leaving over than 1,100 workers dead and around 2,500 injured.
Among the survivors was Rehana Begum, a seamstress who worked at the Ether Tex garment factory on the third floor. Even though her left arm was broken, she knew she was among the lucky ones.
“I felt I was buried alive,” Begum said through her tears. “I never thought I’d see sunlight again.”
How many more need to die for things to change for the better?
In the video above, Ismail Ferdous photographed this deadly disaster and showed viewers the raw destruction and how the lives of those were shattered.