In our last post we talked a little bit about the factory collapse in Bangladesh. This week, we’re going to go a little more in depth into the country’s REALLY bad Sweatshop situation.
Wedged between India and Myanmar, Bangladesh’s population is just over 15.6 million. As a third world nation, Bangladesh is riddled with poverty and citizens struggle everyday to make a living from the very little education they receive.
The capital, Dhaka is home to almost 4000 garment factories where 3.5 million workers produce goods for export to the global market. The textiles industry generates 80% of the country’s export revenue and although this statistic should be celebrated, there is very little reason to do so. The reason lies in one word – Sweatshop.
Most of Bangladesh’s garment factories are very poorly regulated meaning workers are usually subjected to unsafe working environments and treatment. Little has improved over recent years despite mandatory factory registration and the nation is still sprawled with uncertified working spaces that put workers in both physical and psychological danger.
The Bangladeshi government issued a report filing 80% of all formal factories to be safe. The other 20%, however failed to comply with safety standards. This figure is 20% too many – and what about the factories that aren’t registered or surveyed. Millions of lives are at risk of physical danger every day, not to mention the psychological abuse that they are also subjected to.
In 2013 the sweatshop situation in Bangladesh became worldwide news after the collapse of an eight-storey factory space in Dhaka. At 8:57 am, 24th of April, the building gave way and collapsed with over 3122 workers inside. The disaster killed over 1100 people and injured over 2500. What’s most frustrating about this situation however is that it could all have been avoided.
The biggest and most obvious fault with the building, as it was later found, lies in its sketchy construction. First of all the site itself was not ideal for a building of its size with swampy grounds making it extremely dangerous. Second, construction materials used for the plaza were also of very poor quality and when paired with heavy vibrating machinery-running 24/7 – the question of safety should have been a priority. On top of this, the building also had two levels built illegal disregarding important safety standards and building weight restrictions.
If that was not bad enough, the Rana Plaza actually showed signs of stress in the lead up to its demise. On the day before the collapse, workers had actually refused to enter the work sight as they saw cracks appearing in the walls and roof of the building, however, they’re concerns fell to deaf ears as factory owners threatened them with loss of pay, unemployment and physical violence. If that does not make your blood boil – we don’t know what else does.
The result is the loss of innocent lives, half of which were women and children forced to work. On the other hand, a large percentage of those who survived now live with permanent injuries such as limb amputation and illnesses that leave them forever impaired for the workforce.
The Rana Plaza collapse stands as a monumental disaster in Bangladesh, but it is not the first and will not be the last. Since 2005, factory fires due to faulty electricals and smaller scale building collapses as seen an extra 1,800 killed and thousands more injured.
Although this disaster has seen attempts to improve the sweatshop safety situation such as the signing of the Fire and Building Safety Accord, we must still question whether this will be effective in the face of production demand and corruption. Due to this, it is important to rethink your purchases.
It’s really time to #CutTheSweat.