Dec 10, 2012
In Dacca, the capital of Bangladesh, demonstrations have grown to thousands following the Tazreen Fashions textile factory fire that killed 112 garment workers on November 24. Demonstrators demanded that fire safety procedures in the country’s 4,500 textile factories be respected. Officials have admitted that at least a third of the textile factories inspected have safety violations. At least 700 Bangladesh workers have died in factory fires over the last six years.
And that’s not all the workers have protested. In strikes and demonstrations over the last few months, workers have demanded better wages. Right now their monthly wage is $52. The bosses’ association has enough fear of the textile workers’ anger that they announced compensation to the families of the fire victims at Tazreen, worth two years of their salaries.
Three managers of the Tazreen factory currently sit in jail awaiting trial. But greedy Bangladesh bosses are hardly the only ones to bear responsibility. These garment factories – the most important industry in Bangladesh – are subcontractors to companies in the rich countries. They are actually sub-contractors for merchandise going to Walmart, Nike, Sears and Disney, to name a few U.S. corporations.
Walmart was quick to deny responsibility, claiming a sub-contractor used Bangladesh factories without their authorization. A labor organizer released documents to The New York Times that showed five of Tazreen’s 14 production lines made apparel for Walmart.
A meeting was supposedly held at the factory in 2011 in which a Walmart official said, “It is not financially feasible for the brands to make such investments.” This Walmart employee was referring to improvements in electrical and fire safety in Bangladesh factories.
Audits are carried out on behalf of these major corporations, supposedly to pressure contractors in the poorer countries of the world to act in a way that keeps their work force safe. Instead, the sub-contracting of work for rich country corporations leads to miserable working conditions and even death for workers in poor countries.