The Rana Plaza disaster in 2012 claimed the lives of more than 1,100 workers, injuring more than 2,500. It provided the catalyst for more than 200 global brands and retailers to come together to address factory safety issues. However, actual progress in remedying the safety issues revealed by these inspections has been disappointing. Only 79 factories, less than 4 percent, out of acknowledged 2,300 factories where their brands’ garments are being produced have completed their corrective action plans. This is an insufficient number. In 2015, the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights mapped more than 7,000 garment factories producing for export. Therefore, current remediation efforts only address the tip of the iceberg of Bangladesh’s ready-made garment (RMG) industry and leave almost three million workers unprotected.
There has been the absence of adequate financial resources, either from local factory owners in Bangladesh, their international buyers, or other sources. In most cases, completion of the remediation process hinges on costly structural repairs to factories. Many local owners are unwilling to invest without guarantees of future orders.
The question of “who pays?” needs to be addressed before improvements can be made, or perhaps they never will. Many of the root causes of unsafe factories are deeply embedded in the operating context in Bangladesh. Some of these problems are tied to structural weaknesses in makeshift factories and to the weakness of Bangladesh’s electrical grid, which forces many factory owners to install heavy generators in buildings never designed for them.
The World Socialist Party (India): 257 Baghajatin ‘E’ Block (East), Kolkata – 700086,