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Too often, workers speak loudest from the grave

Author: Steven Greenhouse, CNN, Published on: 27 April 2018

25 April 2018

[W]hile safety has improved in Bangladesh, far too many problems remain in that country's -- and the world's -- garment industry. More than 1,000 Bangladeshi apparel factories are not covered by these stepped-up safety measures [such as the Accord on Fire and Building Safety] because the brands that use those factories have not signed on to the accord's ambitious effort. Nor, sad to say, does the accord and its rigorous safety measures cover other countries that manufacture clothing for Americans and Europeans -- Cambodia, India, Vietnam, and Pakistan. These countries could certainly use tougher safety measures. In September 2012, a fire tore through the Ali Enterprises apparel factory in Karachi, Pakistan, killing 289 workers. Labor advocates complain that Pakistani authorities have done far too little to inspect factories, pointing to numerous recent fires, as well as a four-story factory that collapsed in Lahore in November 2015, killing 20 workers...  According to a new report by Mark Anner, director of the Penn State Center for Global Workers' Rights, the accord's inspectors found more than 131,000 violations, from unsafe electrical fixtures to a lack of fire doors, and 97,000 have been corrected. In 2013, 97% of accord factories lacked safe exits because of lockable or collapsible gates; now 96% of them have corrected that problem... In Bangladesh's clothing industry, there are problems beyond safety. After-inflation wages have dropped by 6.5% since the country's minimum wage was last increased in 2013... Bangladesh's government and companies often don't look kindly on workers' freedom of association. In December 2016, when thousands of workers protested for higher pay, Bangladesh authorities arrested 14 labor activists, and factories suspended or fired 1,500 workers... Tragically, it's only after the huge disasters like the Triangle fire and Rana Plaza that companies get serious about safety. It too often seems that workers have more influence from the grave than when they're alive.

 

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