The Rana plaza was one of Bangladesh’s biggest factories producing clothing for companies abroad, mainly in the west.
On the 23rd of April the building collapsed for apparently ” Unknown” reasons. Approximately 1,200 people wee killed and over 2000 injured.
However this was not the first factory disaster and especially not for Bangladesh. A few months earlier there was another factory disaster in Bangladesh, the Tazreen Factory which claimed almost 200 lives. Therefore the question I am posing is, why is there such a high rate of factory related incidents. There is clearly something going wrong; as I will explain shortly.
The incident of the Rana Plaza i a way can be viewed from a good perspective, of course not belittling the lives that were taken and indeed as a result some livelihoods. But what I am trying to say is that, because of this incident, the biggest factory related incident in the world, it was possible for everyone to know the real conditions under which these workers have to work.
Now the world is aware of the misconduct and brutality carried out by these factories towards its workers.
The Rana plaza brang out the ugly side of the Global Supply chain market. The Rana plaza building, which is an eight story building, was not fit for use. It had cracks in the walls and ceilings and the general conditions of the place, would alert any Health and safety alarms, but it did not.
Later investigations were carried out and information released showed that the building had been evacuated the previous day and closed for use.
However the following day workers were forced to go inside and continue working,threatening people with job loses if they failed to comply.
So where does the blame lay?
Firstly, I would say that the Blame lies on the factory owner for not complying with health and safety checks and instead focusing on all the money that he can draw in.
Secondly, the government is to blame for not regularly carrying out audits of the factory to ensure they are safe.
Thirdly, the international corporations are to blame for not checking that the information supplied to them by the contractor was true and valid.
The global demand for fashion especially in the west has increased at a magnitude and that has resulted in an increase in production and at the same time competition.
International companies are now competing to provide the best vale for clothes, often that means to reduce the price and as a result more consumers will buy from them.
This however is impacting on the other side of the spectrum, in the developing world in factories with poor workers.
They are having increasing pressure put on them to meet demand and if they do not meet demand there are consequences.
This results in human rights abuses such as beatings and verbal abuse, not to forget that some of the workers are children and they have to also face this.
What can be done?
After the Rana Plaza disaster there was finally an international agreement, called the Bangladesh Accord signed by many of the major western companies which agree on tighter regulations and inspections of factories.
This is a good step forward and there should be also a local government initiative set up which deal with this.
Secondly, there should be introduction of workers rights in Bangladesh. This will help the workers to not feel intimidated and also make the managers and factory owners more weary of their actions against the workers.
Thirdly, on a global level there should be sustainable supply chain introductions. This will not only benefit the companies but will in turn also make the lives of the workers better.
There is so much more that can be mentioned on this but at least now this has come into the public sphere and is being discussed by intentional companies.
The winners are the companies who are making bucks out of it and the loses are the factory workers who are risking their lives.
Let us not forget also that we are also to blame, if we become more ethically aware of things especially in terms of clothing we can then take steps to avoid it.