Tansy Hoskins, author of the forthcoming Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion (Pluto, January 2014), wrote an op-ed for The Business of Fashion this week on the aftermath of the Rana Plaza Bangladeshi garment factory collapse.
She argues that in the wake of Rana Plaza, it’s clear that voluntary self-inspection of garment factories by brands and retailers is not enough to avoid terrible human tragedy. Workplace health and safety standards must be set and enforced by the workers themselves.
We’ve reproduced an extract of the article below. To see the full thing go to businessoffashion.com. You can also pre-order Tansy’s new book for just £9.45 including free UK P&P, for this week only as part of our 40% off ‘back to uni’ special offer.
Tansy E. Hoskins
On the morning of April 24, 2013, a group of garment workers argued with their managers outside Rana Plaza, a commercial building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which contained a number of clothing factories. The garment workers said the structure was unsafe; that cracks in the building’s concrete had appeared and were growing in size; and that they feared for their lives. The managers replied that anyone refusing to enter the building would have their wages docked, not just for that day but for the entire month. In Bangladesh, losing a month’s wages can mean starvation, so the garment workers were forced to climb the stairs to their work stations, gingerly stepping around cracks in the floor.
An hour later, the eight storey building collapsed on itself, its illegally built top storeys shaken to bits by giant generators placed there to keep the factory running during frequent power cuts. Thousands of workers dropped through floors and were crushed by falling pillars and machinery. Survivors were trapped in a living grave.
The official death toll of Rana Plaza was 1,133, making it the deadliest garment factory disaster in history. Another 2,500 people were injured, many disabled permanently.
To be clear: this tragedy was not an accident. Nor were the recent deaths at Tazreen Fashions, also in Dhaka, and Ali Enterprises in Karachi, Pakistan. Rather, these horrible events were fully preventable, the likes of which trade unions and NGOs have been loudly warning against for decades.
Preventing such tragedies is not rocket science. It involves implementing basic health and safety measures and allowing the formation of trade unions which can provide workers with a collective voice.
But in Bangladesh, trade unions are all but outlawed and the country lacks even the most minimal workplace health and safety regulations, a sorry state of affairs that’s largely due to the fact that most of the country’s factory owners are also members of the Bangladeshi government.
To read the rest of this article, click here.