Pressure mounts on textile chains (video)

Reading Time: 3 minutes

After two recent disasters in Bangladesh’s textile industry that left more than 1,000 workers dead, global textile discounters are increasingly coming under pressure by unions and public critics to help improve labour conditions in the country whose export revenue share of garment products is 79 per cent.

US filmmakers Hannan Majid and Richard York today, May 11, are screening their new documentary about the lives of garment workers in Bangladesh at the Workers Unite! Film Festival in New York City (see trailer below).

The president of the National Garment Workers Federation in Bangladesh, Amirul Haque Amin, has started a petition calling on Western clothing retailers to sign an overdue agreement on fire and building safety in Bangladesh that would establish an independent inspectorate to oversee all factories in Bangladesh, with powers to shut down unsafe facilities as part of a legally binding contract signed by suppliers, customers and unions. However, chains which produce in Bangladesh such as Wal-Mart, H&M, Gap, Primark and Loblaw refused to sign the agreement. According to Amin, so far only US-based PVH Corp, which owns brands including Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, and German retailer Tchibo have done so.

However, finding a solution to the problems is difficult. Bangladesh is a giant textile exporter – second only to China – and it owes its position primarily to its desperate poverty, which has resulted in the world’s lowest factory wages. The Bangladeshi government has been unable to enact any meaningful safety reforms to prevent horrific factory disasters. And most of the world’s major clothing companies seem unwilling to change their manufacturing practices in any meaningful way.

Calling on Western companies to stop their textile outsourcing to high-risk countries such as Bangladesh – like Walt Disney did after the April 24 building collapse at Rana Plaza in Dhaka – is not the desired solution, Amin said.

“Disney has produced in Bangladesh for a very long time and has earned millions, probably billions due to the low costs here. Now, they simply stopped production and abandoned the workers to their fate. This is irresponsible. it would be responsible if Disney would improve labour conditions in Bangladesh,” he added.

However, while Amin now is a sought-after interview partner for Western media to comment on the textile industry in Bangladesh, his influence in the country is not strong enough.

“The unions are very weak in the Bangladeshi textile industry. As per the law, garment workers have the right to organise themselves. However, in practice, factory owners are denying them this right, and workers who join the union get usually sacked,” Amon said.

“It is hard to fight for workers’ rights. The textile sector is the largest industry in Bangladesh, and factory owners are very powerful. They sit in ministries and in the parliament, they dominate the state. Of around 5,000 textile factories in Bangladesh, only 140 are unionised. Our organisation has just 37,000 members, but there are 3.5 million textile workers in the country,” he added.

primark-demo1As concerned international consumers look for ways to respond to the tragedy, some have called for a blanket boycott of Bangladesh products until the country changes its practices. Yet many have argued that such a boycott would not help workers in Bangladesh, arguing that it would undermine the efforts of labour rights activists in the country who are pushing for better pay and working conditions and would rob workers of an important source of income.

Others suggest that consumers should strategically target a handful of high-profile companies such as Gap and H&M and discount chains such as Primark to pressure them to sign up to better safety regulations in Bangladesh.

In a latest development as reported on May 13, Bangladesh has set up a panel to raise the minimum wage for garment workers.

“We’ve set up a minimum wage board for the garment sector. We did it in view of the workers’ demand to hike their salaries,” textile minister Abdul Latif Siddique said.

Workers at the country’s garment-manufacturing hub of Ashulia at the outskirts of Dhaka left their factories en masse on May 12 to demand an increase in wages.

 

 

 

Do you like this post?
  • Fascinated
  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Bored
  • Afraid

Reading Time: 3 minutes

After two recent disasters in Bangladesh’s textile industry that left more than 1,000 workers dead, global textile discounters are increasingly coming under pressure by unions and public critics to help improve labour conditions in the country whose export revenue share of garment products is 79 per cent.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

After two recent disasters in Bangladesh’s textile industry that left more than 1,000 workers dead, global textile discounters are increasingly coming under pressure by unions and public critics to help improve labour conditions in the country whose export revenue share of garment products is 79 per cent.

US filmmakers Hannan Majid and Richard York today, May 11, are screening their new documentary about the lives of garment workers in Bangladesh at the Workers Unite! Film Festival in New York City (see trailer below).

The president of the National Garment Workers Federation in Bangladesh, Amirul Haque Amin, has started a petition calling on Western clothing retailers to sign an overdue agreement on fire and building safety in Bangladesh that would establish an independent inspectorate to oversee all factories in Bangladesh, with powers to shut down unsafe facilities as part of a legally binding contract signed by suppliers, customers and unions. However, chains which produce in Bangladesh such as Wal-Mart, H&M, Gap, Primark and Loblaw refused to sign the agreement. According to Amin, so far only US-based PVH Corp, which owns brands including Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, and German retailer Tchibo have done so.

However, finding a solution to the problems is difficult. Bangladesh is a giant textile exporter – second only to China – and it owes its position primarily to its desperate poverty, which has resulted in the world’s lowest factory wages. The Bangladeshi government has been unable to enact any meaningful safety reforms to prevent horrific factory disasters. And most of the world’s major clothing companies seem unwilling to change their manufacturing practices in any meaningful way.

Calling on Western companies to stop their textile outsourcing to high-risk countries such as Bangladesh – like Walt Disney did after the April 24 building collapse at Rana Plaza in Dhaka – is not the desired solution, Amin said.

“Disney has produced in Bangladesh for a very long time and has earned millions, probably billions due to the low costs here. Now, they simply stopped production and abandoned the workers to their fate. This is irresponsible. it would be responsible if Disney would improve labour conditions in Bangladesh,” he added.

However, while Amin now is a sought-after interview partner for Western media to comment on the textile industry in Bangladesh, his influence in the country is not strong enough.

“The unions are very weak in the Bangladeshi textile industry. As per the law, garment workers have the right to organise themselves. However, in practice, factory owners are denying them this right, and workers who join the union get usually sacked,” Amon said.

“It is hard to fight for workers’ rights. The textile sector is the largest industry in Bangladesh, and factory owners are very powerful. They sit in ministries and in the parliament, they dominate the state. Of around 5,000 textile factories in Bangladesh, only 140 are unionised. Our organisation has just 37,000 members, but there are 3.5 million textile workers in the country,” he added.

primark-demo1As concerned international consumers look for ways to respond to the tragedy, some have called for a blanket boycott of Bangladesh products until the country changes its practices. Yet many have argued that such a boycott would not help workers in Bangladesh, arguing that it would undermine the efforts of labour rights activists in the country who are pushing for better pay and working conditions and would rob workers of an important source of income.

Others suggest that consumers should strategically target a handful of high-profile companies such as Gap and H&M and discount chains such as Primark to pressure them to sign up to better safety regulations in Bangladesh.

In a latest development as reported on May 13, Bangladesh has set up a panel to raise the minimum wage for garment workers.

“We’ve set up a minimum wage board for the garment sector. We did it in view of the workers’ demand to hike their salaries,” textile minister Abdul Latif Siddique said.

Workers at the country’s garment-manufacturing hub of Ashulia at the outskirts of Dhaka left their factories en masse on May 12 to demand an increase in wages.

 

 

 

Do you like this post?
  • Fascinated
  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Bored
  • Afraid