Tragedy Strikes Again as Workers Die in Garment Factory Fire
We’ve seen this before. A garment factory churning out fast fashion clothing for retailers in the West catches on fire and workers lose their lives.
The most recent case occurred in Bangladesh at a factory that appears to have been making clothing for Inditex, the parent of Zara. At least six people, according to reports, lost their lives in the fire that happened last weekend. It follows another blaze in Bangladesh in November where 112 workers lost their lives.
The question becomes whether the demands placed on suppliers are forcing them to cut corners and put workers in harm’s way.
"If they don’t get the products to the customers on time, at quality and in the specifications they want, customers will switch to a competitor," Richard Locke, a professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, told Bloomberg News. "At the same time, brands and large retailers need to be careful about reputational risks associated with poor working and safety conditions."
In some cases, as in the fire in November, factories hired to produce goods for Western brands and retailers farm out work to make deadlines. While companies here have claimed to have no knowledge of such activity, that doesn’t absolve them of responsibility, according to workers’ rights advocates.
"They cannot just clean their hands and say they didn’t know," Kalpona Akter of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, told The Wall Street Journal after the fire last year. "It doesn’t make any sense, unless they are totally irresponsible about their codes of conduct or their inspection practices."
- Bangladesh Factory Safety Elusive Amid Chase for Profits – Bloomberg News
- For Wal-Mart, Sears, Tough Questions in Bangladesh Fire – The Wall Street Journal (sub. required)
Are Western brands and retailers putting factory managers in the position of having to cut corners when it comes to safety in their facilities? What responsibility do retailers in the U.S. have for the working conditions of factory employees who produce goods for them?