Eight-storey building, housing garment factories and shops, collapses in Dhaka, killing 160 and injuring over a 1,000
– Brands who source or have sourced from these factories should fund immediate compensation for injuries and for loss of earnings, and for families who have lost their loved ones and their breadwinners.
– Brands sourcing in Bangladesh must sign and enforce the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement
Of course, it is unforgiveable that factory owners forced their workers to start the day yesterday despite huge cracks appearing in the walls the day before. However, who is responsible for the low prices that drive workers and owners alike to take ridiculous risks with their safety and health day after day? Some estimates reckon that as many as half the garment factories in Bangladesh are in buildings which are structurally unsafe, without usable fire escapes, or otherwise unsafe.
In 18 years of working with the Bangladeshi trade unions and visiting garment workers in their homes, I always hear them say “Please tell the people who buy our clothes of our struggle!” “Do the customers in your country really want us to work this hard for so little money? Do they understand how hungry and desperate our living situation is?” Two million workers, mostly young women, generate 80% of the country’s exports – but they earn a minimum wage of just £25 / month, 60% of the estimated cost of living in slum conditions. It took years of trade union and NGO pressure even to get £25 – before 2010 the minimum wage was barely half that.
People Tree joins War on Want and garment workers’ unions in demanding that brands sign the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement. Even putting right all the factory buildings in the Dhaka area has been estimated to cost only 7p / garment over the next 5 years.
Garment factory workers repeatedly tell me that they would love nothing more than to go back to their villages, to be with their own children instead of leaving them with the grandparents, if they could earn a living in garment-making there. “I wish that this Fair Trade system could help me and women from my village.”
This is what People Tree does. People Tree creates opportunities for hundreds of people in Bangladesh in the rural areas, to handweave, hand embroider and tailor garments through Fair Trade at fair wages, and for hundreds more in other countries. Consumers can ask brands to take responsibility and meet the real human cost of producing fashion. Consumers can choose fashion which empowers rather than exploits.