25 1 min 8 yrs

Bangladesh doesn’t usually make headlines for good news. And the tragic building collapse which has killed over 300 people is no different. The reports indicate that many of the dead are garment workers whose employers told them the building was safe (despite other businesses closing).

Bangladesh has a significant garment industry do it its low wage workers who often provide cheap labor for American and European companies (who are all trying to distance themselves from this event). I am sure the building owner will be prosecuted, but what about the corporate layers of negligence? Will the corporate retail giants try to change their ways? I doubt it. I suspect they will probably just move their work down the street.

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25 thoughts on “Bangladesh Disaster

  1. The owner was warned that the building was unsafe, but did nothing about it, and is now in hiding. I hope some of the bereaved find him and do the needful, pour encourager les autres.

  2. Well said, mahons. It is terribly tragic that people prepared to work in these conditions in an attempt to break out of poverty should lose their lives like this.

    Equally tragic is the fact that governments in many Asian countries know that cheap labour, and plenty of it, is really all their countries can offer and their only hope of export revenue. They will do everything to prevent anything – including international working and safety standards – that drives up costs for investors.

  3. This is what happens to ” lowest possible price ” bidding and no effective enforcement of whatever workplace safety regs as may exist.

    There must be effective regulation of workplace safety, esp in starvation wage environments like Bangladesh.

    The fault here lies with the company and building owner, but we’re not off the hook, either. I’ve got some clothing that was made there, and I hate to say it was probably made under the same miserable conditions.

  4. The masses demand cheap trinkets. Do you think your sparkly trainers/sneakers are made in Monaco? If you don’t want Bangladeshis working in sweatshops then buy only the most expensive shit you can find and send those Bangladeshi workers back to the land and the begging bowl.

    Bangladesh has building codes and the building is owned by a politician. Anyone who thinks corruption isn’t in play hasn’t been paying attention to politics.

  5. That’s a problem – but your workers and mine generally have good workplace protections, and there is no reason why those in poorer countries cannot have have them too – especially when the facility in question is making product for the West.

    We have great leverage here – and should use it. No proper workplace safety, no fair treatment – no access to first world markets. If this goes against rules of ” fair trade ” I’m fine with that. Fair trade that exists on the back of tormented workers or environmental depredation has no value to me.

  6. “We have great leverage here – and should use it.”

    We are using it, to the fullest extent. We’re buying the cheap shit they make and causing the greatest economic revolution in history to happen. We can stop using our leverage, but then we’d reverse the gains and send millions back to the paddy fields.

    “No proper workplace safety, no fair treatment – no access to first world markets.”

    No trade between Phantom and a Bangladeshi – by order of Phantom’s plantation owner. Phantom is worse off and the Bangladeshi is back to begging.

    No no no.

  7. At it’s heart, the ” no regulations ” movement is that of the rich man, and not the smart rich man either since it is so completely at variance with their enlightened self interest.

    You can have state of the art US / German type worker protections including fire suppression gear in every Bangladeshi factory, and they’ll still get the business, since the wages there are very low there.

    Bangladesh is a country of 150 million people, most of them very poor. The bosses have all the power there. Time to tilt the scale back where it belongs. If that inconveniences those who want to build firetrap factories that aren’t built to any structural code, then too bad.

  8. Bangladesh has a building code, yet of all the factories in all of Bangladesh, the one which collapses is owned by a politician.

    More rules by politicians!

  9. The western companies which buy from the Bangladesh producers have a moral responsibility to ensure that the employee wages and working conditions are acceptable. If they turn a blind a blind eye (as they have done) they need to be exposed for the profiteering hypocrites they are and they deserve to be subjected to mass-consumer boycotts in the west which could put their lights out in no time.

    See how quickly Starbucks caved a couple of months ago when its (totally legal) tax-dodging was exposed.

  10. Their building code is so tragic it is almost a farce. The enforcement is virtually non-existent because its ruling class doesn’t give a damn about workers safety.

  11. Countries like the US, Japan and Germany have good workplace protections.

    Despite the fact that there are politicians in those countries.

  12. The US, Japan and Germany can afford those natural, capitalistic, workplace protections which come only via many years of capital accumulation.

    Wealth = workers rights and workplace protection

    Unless of course you argue that bankers, lawyers and research scientists in rich countries would be crushed under rubble in rich countries without politicians to protect them.

  13. The US, Japan and Germany would have much less of those protections if government did not make them mandatory.

    As many should know, all the US workplace protections came after a particularly horrific fire in a NY clothing factory, where 146 employees were killed.

    Because the managers had locked the doors to the stairwells and exits – a common practice at the time to prevent pilferage and unauthorized breaks[5] – many of the workers who could not escape the burning building jumped from the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors to the streets below. The fire led to legislation requiring improved factory safety standards and helped spur the growth of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, which fought for better working conditions for sweatshop workers.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triangle_Shirtwaist_Factory_fire

    NY and other states then reguired fire safety and other protections. The bosses then, like the ideologues now, said that such requirements were wrong, that no one could ever afford them, that it was a distortion of the rights of private property.

  14. The work safety regulations came because workers struggled for them, not because rich capitalists suddenly got a conscience.

  15. Strong unions that really press for better conditions would be an answer. That is what helped in the West. And unions in the West could help them organize, negotiate, get political influence, etc. But are the unions of the West doing anything? Western brands could insist that they will only do business with unionized companies.

  16. “The fat capitalists who made children work were only stopped because of benevolent government and trade union, who love people.”

    It’s like reading civics class homework. An ‘F’ for each effort. Come on children, it’s time to leave the classroom myths behind and start believing in reality.

    Every advance in work conditions was made possible only by capitalism and free markets. Without them children really would still be crippling themselves on the land.

  17. Pete

    You’re not a spokesman for modern capitalism. You oppose mandatory workplace protections, which are an essential part of it. Workplace protections became universal only after laws mandated them. This ihas been the case in every country.

    There is an essential role for govt in modern capitalism. No leading businessperson would deny this. These purist arguments tend to be made by people who employ no one, who make no product, and who have a deep misunderstanding of how any economy works,

  18. Utter nonsense. Workers fought for the advances in working conditions (and one can not ignore the debt owed to many of the original socialists) against the powerful efforts of many capitalists to resist same.

  19. Pete

    You seem quite alienated from the reality of the moden economy.

    What do you do for a living if I may ask?

    Are you an employee, self employed, or what?

  20. “Workers fought for the advances in working conditions (and one can not ignore the debt owed to many of the original socialists) against the powerful efforts of many capitalists to resist same.”

    Indeed.

    Or- Pete- perhaps you can list a few of those worker protections fought for and achieved by ‘capitalism and free markets.’

    Thanks.

  21. Phantom –

    I’ve told you. I;m a project manager in property development.

    pinky –

    Every protection was made possible only by capitalism and free markets. I repeat: without them we still be a stupendously poor society and children would still be breaking themselves in fields.

    It’s only by the miracles of capitalism and free markets (and the division of labour therein) that we have societies so productive that children no longer have to work and adults can be afforded safe working environments.

    You, Mahons and Phantom argue for economic ways which would lead – inevitably – to workplace protections being lost as they become unaffordable.

  22. Fire protection systems and construction codes cost nothing in the big picture. It is cheaper as well as being more ethical to have them than to not have them.

  23. Phantom – how exactly do construction codes protect against catastrophic collapse of buildings?

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