Published on April 26th, 2013 | by admin2
Editorial: Bangladesh garment factory collapse – accident or a mass murder?
Above pic: Andrew Biraj/Reuters/Landov
Tuesday, April 23rd, Rana Plaza building, Savar (outside Dhaka), Bangladesh. Several people who were working in a garment factory saw a huge crack their building. The crack is so big; it ran from above the 5th floor to the ground floor. As these people feared for their life, they refused to go back and continue working in that building. The first floor of the factory has a bank. The bank workers also refused to go to work for the same reason. The bank was shutdown, and no went to work on Wednesday.
It is not the case with the garment workers. They were told that the crack was not dangerous, and they should continue to work. They were told that if they did not go to work on Wednesday, they would loose the entire month’s pay. So the option given to thousands of workers was either to work in a building which was ready to collapse, or loose one month pay, and probably the job too. These garment workers are hard working people. They work for very cheap (14 to 24 cents per hour), and close to 70-80 hours a week. I don’t think any low wage garment worker in Bangladesh can survive by loosing one month’s pay.
So they had to go in to that cracked building on Wednesday. Sadly, the worst possible scenario happened on Wednesday. The building collapsed, just as the workers feared. So far we know there are over 200 people dead and around a 1000 injured. There are also around 700 people under the building rubble. Most of the dead are female. Until Thursday morning, there were survivors from under the concrete screaming to get help. But the voices faded away by the afternoon. It is certain that the death toll will rise.
This incident happened before we even forgot the deadly fire accident back in November last year. It was in a garment factory in Tazreen, Bangladesh, which made clothes for the supplier of Walmart, Disney, Sears, Dickies, and Sean John. Over a hundred died in those fires. These “accidents” are not just isolated incidents. About 40 other accidents happened between the December fire accident and the building collapse earlier this week.
Here are some questions to be asked…
One of the retailers for whom they were making clothes in the collapsed factory was The Children’s Place. This shop is found in several malls across the US. A couple of times I bought clothes for my daughter at The Children’s place. It pains me so much that daughters of someone else are making clothes for my daughters in a dangerous place. Can’t we really afford to pay 10 cents more per garment, to give a better wage and working conditions for the people manufacturing them? 10 cents raise per garment is what Sumi Abedin, a survivor of November fire accident. She currently on a tour to USA, seeking help to increase workers’ wage, and support for workers safety agreement.
Next time we buy clothes from a Walmart or a Children’s Place, should we look for blood stains or ash marks on the clothes? Shouldn’t the consumer know under what stressful conditions their products are made? Instead of putting happy kids faces on their websites (the pic with four kids is from childrensplace.com), should they put the faces of the people making the clothes? And if they do, would the consumers ignore and still look for the cheapest clothes? When we are looking for cheap products, are we really accounting for the real human cost?
We know Bangladesh is already the 2nd biggest exporter of garments in the world, only next to China. Why are more and more garment companies moving from China to Bangladesh? That is because it is even “cheaper” in Bangladesh than in China. It is undeniable that more people are getting jobs in Bangladesh, and probably foreign reserves are rising in the country. But what kind of jobs are created, and what kind of working/living conditions are created? What will happen to all these people when the manufacturing companies find even cheaper countries they can exploit?
US and UK companies, being the biggest importers of these clothes, are also the richest in this chain. What responsibility do they have 1) to compensate for the victims and 2) to force the corrupt Bangladesh government to crackdown the factories ignoring the safety concerns?
When the workers are forced to work in a cracked building, is it the accident that killed them or is it a cold blooded mass murder?