Six months after a tragic factory fire in Bangladesh killed at least 112 people, and just three months after a second blaze claimed the lives of seven others, disaster struck again his morning when a Bangladeshi garment factory collapsed, killing over 100 people, and injuring thousands, with bodies still being counted and people still trapped inside, according to most up-to-date reports. 105 workers are confirmed dead and 600 are confirmed as rescued, but there were approximately 2500 workers in the building at the time of the collapse–meaning the majority of occupants are still unaccounted for.
The eight story building, which housed four garment factories and a market, was located in Savar, a suburb of the national capital, Dhaka. According to the New York Times, cracks were discovered yesterday, but workers were still instructed to attend work today. Garment factory owners reportedly told workers, who were reluctant to enter the building, that if they did not go in for the 8:00 a.m. shift they would not be paid, the Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights is reporting.
The Children’s Place and Cato are among the clients of the collapsed factories.
Poor building construction and lack of government inspection is one of many problems consistently plaguing Bandladesh’s garment industry. “It is substandard construction, shortcut construction,” Alonzo Suson, country director for the American Center for International Labor Solidarity, a labor rights group, told the Times.
There’s also lack of fire-safety standards, as evidenced by Bangladesh factory fires in both January of this year and November of last year.
While some companies, like H&M and Tommy Hilfiger, have very recently become more transparent about the factories they use and what they’re doing to ensure those factories are safe, others, like Inditex (which owns Zara), deny knowingly using such dangerous factories, placing the blame on suppliers who allegedly subcontract the work out.
In the past few months, the Bangladeshi government has increased inspections and regulations–mostly at the urging of global companies like Wal-Mart who are threatening to pull their manufacturing business from the country if conditions are not improved (Wal-Mart donated $1.6 million toward improving fire safety standards in the country). If companies like Wal-Mart and H&M start sourcing elsewhere, Bangladesh’s economy–which relies heavily on the $20 billion sector–could be in jeopardy. On the other hand, meeting the new safety standards has come at a cost to manufacturers, which in turn has driven the price of production up; Bangladeshi government officials worry that if the price continues to increase, global retailers will begin looking for cheaper manufacturing alternatives in countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, and even Burma (according to WWD, Wal-Mart is thinking of sourcing out of those countries.)
But even though garment manufacturing has become an important boon to Bangladesh’s economy, this latest string of garment factory tragedies means it’s time to turn the garment manufacturing reform conversation into action, before another disaster occurs.
Visit the Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights‘ website to see how you can help bring about change in Bangladesh’s garment industry.