Four million garment workers, mostly women, toil in 5,000 factories across Bangladesh, making the country’s $25 billion garment industry the world’s second largest, after China. Garment workers generally are paid low wages with few or no benefits and often struggle to support their families. Many risk their lives to make a living.
On November 24, 2012, a massive fire tore through the Tazreen Fashions Ltd. factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, killing more than 110 garment workers and gravely injuring thousands more.
The Alliance consortium of retailers, an organisation backed by global retailers including Gap, Target and Walmart is giving passing grades to Bangladeshi factories that have yet to implement life-saving safety changes the retailers pledged to put in place following a deadly building collapse in 2013 that killed 1,137 people, according to a new report.
The report found of the 107 factories labelled as being “on track” by the Alliance, 99 were still falling behind in one or more safety categories.
Three and a half years after the building collapse, the authors conclude that the factories that provide clothes to some of the biggest names in retail have so far failed to implement key renovations by their own mandated deadlines and that:
62% still lack viable fire exits;
62% do not have a properly functioning fire alarm system;
47% have major, uncorrected structural problems.
The report argues the lack of progress “is placing the lives of thousands of workers in jeopardy”. The authors calculate some 120,000 garment workers employed in the 62 factories that produce items for Walmart do not have fully viable fire exit systems. Another 55,000 people are employed in factories making clothes for Gap that had compromised fire exits, the report found.