Hundreds Die in Bangladesh Factory Collapse As Retailers Reject Better Safety Standards

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JAISAL NOOR: Widespread protests continue
in Bangladesh as the death toll from last week’s collapse of an illegally constructed
garment factory has topped 370. The collapse of the Rana Plaza complex, where workers made
clothes for Western retailers, is considered the deadliest accident in the history of the
garment industry. At least seven have been detained in connection with the incident,
including three of the building’s owners, who have been arrested and are expected to
face criminal charges. Meanwhile, ongoing rescue efforts were suspended
after nine were freed Sunday morning because a fire broke out in the rubble of the factory,
reportedly killing the last survivor of the building collapse. According to the latest
numbers, at least 377–mostly young women–have been confirmed dead, more than 2,400 have
been rescued, while hundreds remain unaccounted for and are feared lost. Police used rubber bullets and tear gas against
the thousands of protesters who have taken to the streets as unrest has spread to several
cities. Protesters reportedly set fire to garment factories and cars. More shocking details surrounding the collapse
have come to light, further enraging garment workers and their supporters. According to
reports, it was known that the illegally built structure was unsafe. Shop workers on the
first floor of the building had been evacuated. Garment workers were pressured to stay on
the job. The incident has elicited a wide range of
responses in the United States. Forbes contributor Tom Worstall writes, “Sadly, Bangladesh Simply
Cannot Afford Rich World Safety And Working Standards”. He says the tragedy, quote, “forces
us to face an unpleasant truth. Bangladesh simply isn’t rich enough to be able to have
the same safety and working standards as those we enjoy in the rich countries.” Worstall
argues against pushing more regulation and says the only way to improve working conditions
in Bangladesh is to boost its economy by buying more goods by workers made there. What Worstall doesn’t mention is that Western
retailers have rejected calls to fund independent oversight of safety standards at garment factories.
They continue to do so even after last November’s Tazrin factory disaster that killed over 100
workers, according to the Associated Press. Companies say the measures would be too costly,
and instead are pushing for increased safety training and inspections of factory conditions
by private companies. According to the Associated Press, both the Tazrin factory and factories
within the Rana Plaza complex passed private inspections before disaster struck. Just a few days before the Rana Plaza collapsed,
The Real News spoke to Bangladeshi factory workers and their advocates as they toured
the United States to pressure Western companies like Walmart to fully fund independent oversight
to create safer conditions for workers. Activists held a mock funeral for the victim of the
Tazrin factory fire at the apartment of Walmart board of directors member Michele Burns. This is Maritza Silva-Farrell, senior organizer
of the Alliance for a Greater New York, speaking to The Real News a few days before the Rana
Plaza collapse. MARITZA SILVA-FARRELL: We are having a funeral,
a symbolic funeral, in name of 112 workers who recently died in a factory in Bangladesh
mainly because of the irresponsibility of Walmart and other companies that supplies
from Bangladesh to be able to sell some of those cheap goods in the U.S. So that’s why
we organized this event, to make sure that their voices are out, that Walmart make changes,
and also that Walmart board of directors take action, because they do have the power to
make those changes. NOOR: Also speaking was Kalpona Akter, from
the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, who called for Walmart to compensate the families
of workers that died in the Tazrin factory fire and for Western retailers to demand increased
safety at factories. KALPONA AKTER: Main objectives is to, you
know, have the compensation for Tazrin workers who lost their life in this fire. So we want
these workers has to be compensated by Walmart because they were producing clothes for Walmart.
On the other hand, we are calling these retailer to sign the fire safety MOU, which is very
important. That will prevent the future death in Bangladesh. NOOR: When citing the importance of Western
companies and activists pushing for safer working conditions in Bangladesh, advocates
highlight the threats, intimidation, corrupt judicial system, and physical harm workers
and organizers face in Bangladesh. Kalpona Akter shared her own story. AKTER: Whenever–I mean, whoever tried to
support workers’ voices, we had to face the criminal charges. The government and the factory
owners throw me to prison for a month, and they filed several criminal cases against
me, which I’m still facing. And they didn’t stop with that. They revoked our organization
registration, which has not been registered yet. And moreover, they killed my colleague
Aminul Islam, and perpetrators are not [incompr.] yet. So this is not easy. But we are–keep
doing this because we believe the consumers, the union folks in this part of the world,
they are supporting us and they will be supporting us. NOOR: Reporting for The Real News, this is
Jaisal Noor.

49 COMMENTS

  1. Another variation on how to get filthy rich in South Asia, and yet they keep making more babies for slaughter. It's just another part of the tragicomedy on this sad/funny planet we call earth.

  2. The way she just naturally talks about her prison time and friends death make me imagine that Bangtown is a shitty place to live.

  3. This is the type of "regulation" conservative idealogues envision for the "rich countries". Private companies paid millions in government money to oversee disasters which kill expendable workers. This is what "small government" advocates of both parties are pursuing.

  4. I feel very bad for the families of those who died, but these workers need to demand better working conditions from their own government leaders, not from Walmart. Walmart doesn't even care about their employees in the U.S., so why would they do anything for people thousands of miles away? Workers in Western countries went through all of this during the industrial revolution, but they fought for their rights and now enjoy the benefits of that. Developing countries need to do the same.

  5. Maybe the workers at Wallmart can work together with the workers in Bangladesh. Because together they are stronger and with broad public support, they can perhaps force the big corporations to take some responsibility for their actions. And then we can move on to higher goals, like, why allow corporations to exist in the first place.

  6. the workers have always been demanding fair working conditions, but no one ever listens to them..until tragedy happens

  7. Boycott all western companies that carry on these retarded and destructive business practices. Shop at your local stores and put the big companies out of business.

  8. I agree. It is so horrible that I can hardly read about it, or watch a video about it. These people were victims of incredible neglect. This is a huge example of how first world countries take incredible advantage of third world people, with no desire to improve their living and working conditions. It is absolutely abominable. Bangladesh is basically the lowest paid workforce in the world. Is it any wonder it is a big source for Walmart and even Loblaw's in Canada.

  9. here's a better idea: let's remove the owners by force and put people in place who actually care about fair economics

  10. Workers should take over the factories and manage them themselves, only this way they could have decent wages and safe working conditions. As long as workers allow private owners to exploit them this is what we are going to see.

  11. all these "cheap products" arent actually cheap. the sticker price is lower but this is achieved by capitalists seeking working populations they can exploit far more than they can the american workforce. it also helps when the working conditions are shit which means nothing is being invested in safety. hence this tragedy

  12. Not to be overtly cynical, but a lot of people in the US do not look at the tags in clothes, where you can see where it was made from. So a lot of people here just don't care about people who make these clothes since they are far away and out of sight.

  13. did you not watch the video or read the description? western retailers are against the safety checks because it marginally hurts the bottom line profits.

  14. How could safety inspector be "independent" if they were fully funded by Walmart? You'd think that would give Walmart some influence in the inspection process.

  15. Whats not told here is that hundreds of thousands are employed and are able to feed their families. Enforcing standards that may shut down factories could cause a chain reaction of over 50+k to die from starvation & malnutrition.

    It's not that you should just "take the deaths and be happy you have a job". But a tiny bit more wisdom and a bit less knee jerk reaction may be called for.

  16. i disagree americans are a priori dismissive of other working populations. are there people who dont care, who throw their support behind the capitalist who imposes such shit safety standards in order to increase their profit, are there such people who also try to appear to be "reasonable" implying nonsense like if higher standards are called for then this might lead to mass shutdowns of other factories (implying that such unsafe conditions are necessary as opposed to the result of profiteering)

  17. there are such people. but i dont believe they compose the majority of the american working class or any working population in the world

  18. The next time you think you are getting something for cheap or on sale…think about this video. It is cheap for a reason.

  19. WalMart is a disease spreading death and low wages and destroying
    American businesses. We could do well without this murderer
    of the human spirit. Fill your shopping carts, buy NOTHING,force
    them to put it back !

  20. A hundred years ago the garment workers in the US were mostly Jewish and the owners were also Jewish. Now the workers are from Haiti, Honduras, Guatemala, Vietnam, Bangladesh … but the ownership, financing, branding and marketing are still mostly Jewish. Owners of this factory were paying 8cents per garment, 28c/day but they will move where they can pay7. Stereotypes are born for what people observe.

  21. As with the oil industry, in this industry there is always two, three or more layers of subcontractors before the real owners and deciders would ever show their faces for any legal aspect of their crimes.

  22. It's awfully cheesy of a North American company setting up in these places with the (Full knowledge!), of the even more cheesy behaviour of these low class criminally minded property owners!

  23. ps: The only sensible alternative is for these North American companys to bring theyre own builders and the building inspectors. After a disaster like this, no Bangladeshi construction types will be involved at all. IE: North American factory! North American built! And this time the workers get North American wages! By the hour!! Weekends off! Full holidays! Dental plans! In shop day care!, The whole deal !!

  24. Don't blame walmart..be happy walmart was giving their families money to live from day today..

    I want to get rid of the monetary system for this reason. Its a outdated system that needs to die.

  25. THE CORRUPTION STARTS HERE. I used to work in purchasing, it's common for big organisations to distance themselves from responsibility by using UK sourcing companies that claim to have tight ethical policies but in fact will do ANYTHING to source products from abroad at the absolute lowest price. This includes financing temporary relocation of factories to safe locations while external inspections are being carried out, then financing the move back to original premises. It is utterly corrupt.

  26. There needs to be fewer ignorant people like you on Earth. Islam doesn't promote violence or hate. 911 was brought upon by extremist groups NOT the general Muslim population. I hope you don't call yourself a Christian because as a Christian, we are not taught to have such hatred in our hearts. Stop the ignorance and hate and educate yourself

  27. How can any of us actually buy conscious products? EVERYTHING we buy from our clothes to eyeglasses to Iphones are made in factories like these.. I want to help but how? This is a serious question

  28. Shut up idiot, your governments war loving policy and killing of hundreds of thousands of people all around the world is what brought you the 9/11, not Islam.

    It's called law of karma, fuck peoples lives abroad and they will come and fuck some in your country.

    Too bad many good innocent people died in the attacks instead of assholes like you.

  29. Those retailers who buy from these factories and the owners should be made to pay a regular bond.  The factories should be regularly inspected by an independent body, and if found to be below set safety standards, the necessary improvements will be paid for 50/50 out of the  2 bonds.  If the price of improvements is more than the value of the bonds, the retailer and owners must pay the difference equally.  If there is an accident, compensation and rebuilding will be paid out of the bond, again, with any further money paid by the retailer and owner.  The retailer and owner can use the bond money to make pre-emptive improvements to the factory and the workers conditions.  If the inspectors report positively on safety and working conditions, future bond payments will go down.  Bond money will be retained as an overall compensation fund.

  30. Wal-Mart MUST fund and implement western world building codes to the lifeblood of their business. This can be a focal marketing point to their consumers. People of different cultures live everywhere nowadays, and chances are they will feel better supporting and shopping at a company like Wal-Mart if the working conditions are positive. They would be able to subsidize the extra cost of implementing these standards by marketing how 'great and safe' Wal-Mart's affiliated manufacturers and vendors abroad operate. The people arrested are merely scapegoats of this inaction and missed opportunity by Wal-Mart. This issue is not exclusive to just Wal-Mart.

  31. whats happened, as with the GFC…….ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, 0 ZIP F…ALL!!! money to all governments unfortunately takes precedence over lives. that piece of crap that said bangladesh cant afford safety is indemic of the attitude of the corporate world….if people are poor you screw them!

  32. by the way, i am not muslem, or any religious crap. i just feel for the victims of these contrived fairy stories!

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