How many people must die before fast fashion retailers stop abusing third world workers?
An eight story factory in the Bangladesh town of Savar, near the country’s capital city Dhaka, has collapsed killing upwards of 175 workers and injuring thousands more. The death toll could continue to rise with the district police chief Habibur Rahman telling Reuters “many are still trapped under the rubble”.
The factory was used by several major suppliers, including one that produces garments for Primark. In a statement, the fast fashion retailer said that the company was “shocked and deeply saddened by this appalling incident”.
Bangladesh is the second biggest exporter of clothes in the world but its £13billion textiles industry has been plagued by fires and accidents for years. Retailers have been under increased pressure to improve conditions for workers following several reports of violation of labour laws and reports of poor safety records.
The collapse comes just months after nearly 120 people were killed in a fire at a garment factory in Bangladesh. The factory reportedly produced clothing for labels owned by Zara’s parent company, Inditex. Back in 2010 an H&M supplier was also found to be sourcing goods from a Bangladesh factory, Garib & Garib, where at least 21 workers perished in a fire. At the time, H&M said it had recently audited the factory and was satisfied with the way its code of conduct was being followed.
In addition to dangerous working conditions, many employees work under slave labour type conditions. A report by Swedish documentary Kalla Facta which aired in November 2012 accused H&M of paying garment workers less than 25% of a living wage. They also alleged that the factories were overcrowded and have poor working conditions. The camera crew followed garment worker Deuar Sophon who told them that she is forced to take out high-interest loans to purchase food despite working 70 hours per week making garments for H&M. In February 2013 it was also reported that Spanish retail giant Zara has been accused of employing immigrant workers, including children, to produce clothes in “degrading” sweatshop conditions in Argentina. The Bolivian workers claimed that they were made to work for more than 13 hours a day and were not allowed leave the factory without permission.
Remember before you shop from fast fashon retailers – there is a reason the clothes are cheap – someone else is paying the price, often with their lives…