We were all saddened by the recent tragedy in Bangladesh. A building that housed many garment factory workers, collapsed, killing almost a thousand people. The western media chose to highlight (quite rightly) the fact, that this particular factory manufactured garments for Primark, a very popular budget retailer.
The keyword is budget here. The factory bosses in Bangladesh are under pressure to deliver goods at huge volumes, at a certain price and within a certain time frame, therefore forcing cheap labour to work in unsafe conditions.
So, who is responsible for the loss of these lives? The Western retailers?
i. Considering the fact, that these retailers have strict health and safety policies, here in the West, should they have asked about the safety regulations in the factories of their suppliers, to begin with?
ii. Should these retailers leave Bangladesh and change suppliers, like Walt Disney has decided OR should retailers like H&M push for highest safety standards?
iii. Are we responsible? For demanding cheap clothes?
What emerged out of this particular tragedy (why did they wait for a thousand people to lose their lives?) is a very hurried response where the major clothing retailers had to sign a legally binding agreement aimed at improving safety standards at garment factories in Bangladesh, by 15th May 2013. So far, I have heard that the US giants Walmart, GAP, Target, Sears have refused to sign the agreement. Disagreement in the small print I suppose.
I just hope that the factory workers are not exploited in any ways. I’m sure you will have a similar wish. They should have better wages, reasonable working hours, safe machinery. They need the business from the West.
They don’t need greedy exploiters in any shape or form, East or West.