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Date: 2024-05-20 Page is: DBtxt003.php txt00006884

Workplace Conditions
Garment Industry

Factory workers deserve better working conditions ... Fatal collapse in Dhaka garment factory

Burgess COMMENTARY

Peter Burgess

Image of author Maarten van Leeuwen | Solidaridad Network | Blog Post | 10 May 2013 Final wake up call for the garment sector Factory workers deserve better working conditions. Factory workers deserve better working conditions. The Solidaridad Network provides its thoughts on the disaster in Bangladesh. Can we cooperate on a solution? Fatal collapse in Dhaka garment factory Another fatal incident in the Bangladesh’ garment sector: 3000 people were in the building when it collapsed, most of them women who dedicate their lives to making our clothing. The owner of the poorly constructed building did not have the proper building consent from the government, and moreover illegally added 3 stories. The building clearly was not fit for its current use, housing 5 garmenting factories full of machines and workers. The result: more than 350 people died while there are still many missing. Unacceptable, but unfortunately not the only case of inadequate factory buildings in the Bangladesh garment sector. Unsafe buildings one out of many problems Dangerous constructions are however not the only problem in the textile industry: fires, excessive working hours, low wages, water depletion and pollution are issues common to the sector. This disaster reached the Western newspapers because of its scale. However, similar violations of Human Rights on a smaller scale take place on a daily basis. The fact that workers in Bangladesh are poorly organised makes them vulnerable. The trade unions are weak and the legislative requirements for worker representation committees are poorly implemented. One of the root causes is the constant drive to fast and cheap fashion: The price for the product is low and the real costs are being paid by the workers and communities in Bangladesh. There is not a single culprit that can be pointed at; it’s a complex interrelated system that is being kept alive by factory owners, the local authorities, brands, retailers and consumers. Boycot “made in Bangladesh” doesn’t help Is the solution to boycott garments from Bangladesh? Definitely not! We should not forget that due the growth of the sector in the past 15 years, millions of young women have found a job and are slowly crawling out of extreme poverty. A boycott would not help them. Yet a radical change is necessary. The solutions from the past haven’t worked and will not work. They are based on single issue management, compliance driven certification systems and initiated by one or few stakeholders. It’s time for a radical change now, all parties involved must take their responsibility. Protect, respect and remedy In the language of John Ruggie (Human Rights professor at Harvard University): the authorities should protect the Human Rights of their citizens by legislation and enforcement, the private sector (factory owners, agents and brands and retailers) should respect Human Rights. Another major challenge is the third aspect of his framework: remedy of the problems. All stakeholders should join hands to find a solution: brands and retailers collectively, factory owners and the government. And last but not least the workers should be heard. Local needs and priorities should be taken into account leading to local ownership of the process. Invitation to cooperate on a solution Our compassion is with the families of the victims. Let’s hope that this horrific case will finally set the alarm. We expect the concerned parties to recognize the problems and take on the responsibility in compensating the victims in Dhaka. Equally important, it’s about time to work on a fundamental solution. Solidaridad believes that the change has to come from in the market space, starting with brands and retailers and their suppliers. We like to invite them and other stakeholders, to join us in finding the much needed collaborative approach based on shared values and with a commitment to a long term process. Republished with permission from the Solidaridad Network. Photo of Peter Burgess Peter Burgess | TrueValueMetrics Re: Final wake up call for the garment sector Post comment Peter Burgess | TrueValueMetrics | 14 May 2013 Re: Final wake up call for the garment sector I am frustrated by the current state of affairs where workers count for nothing. The only thing that matters in the way we score business performance is profit, and everything else just gets in the way. Please do NOT boycott Made in Bangladesh clothes, rather boycott stores and brands that make huge profit on top of very low paid labor and appalling working conditions. Start to call for a bigger part of profit to go into decent wages and decent working conditions ... safe working conditions. As far as I am concerned there is blood on the hands of stores and brands that are profitable on top of these terrible situations. This is not confined to the textile industry. Coffee and chocolate are two other parts of the global economy where the farmers get next to nothing while others in the supply chain make good profits. There are many other examples. In fact, it is difficult to find any supply chain where everyone is getting a fair wage and working in decent safe conditions. As far as I am concerned it is time for some serious push-back from consumers. Peter Burgess TrueValueMetrics Maarten van Leeuwen | Solidaridad Network | 14 May 2013 Re: Final wake up call for the garment sector Hi Peter, Thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate you take some time to comment on this. The orginal article was published by my colleagues from the Textile programme at Solidaridad and they are the true experts in this Bangladesh case working with different stakeholders in the fashion industry. But I hope that by sharing some articles from our website people within this community get inspired and take (more) action. Solidaridad has been involved in many other supply chains as well, like coffee, cocoa, sugarcane, palm oil and many others for a long time. We did so research on the consumer end that you might find interesting. 'It is mainly companies that can realize sustainable and responsible production of food. The consumer is not enforcing sustainability.' It is a difficult to balance who should take responsibility. We strongly believe that it's business that have to take the lead to make a big step towards sustainable & responsible supply chains, but of course everyone (businesses, civil society and government) has a role to play. That includes you and me, Peter! (But I'm sure you are well aware of this already). Maarten van Leeuwen Robyn Kimber | Lululemon Athletica | 15 May 2013 Re: Final wake up call for the garment sector We need to recalibrate what is a reasonable amount to pay for clothes. Cheap clothes generally mean that someone has been exploited at some point in the supply chain, and/or they are so low quality they will only last a few wears. Clothes have got much cheaper and people are addicted to the current habit of constantly changing their wardrobes. It is hard to imagine how we can turn back this trend and revert back to a world where it isn't acceptable to shop every Friday for your weekend outfit, where you don't hear people saying 'I buy all new clothes before a beach holiday and then leave them it in the hotel when I leave' or where mums buy five pairs of jean for their son because that is easier than patching the knees when they rip.

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