Against the background of reports that 200 Bangladesh clothing factories have stopped production with 10,000 workers taking to the streets demanding higher pay, the East Midlands Textiles Association (Emtex) has called for the establishment of a world standard for the buildings and conditions in the industry.
The new wave of unrest comes five months after the collapse of the eight-story Rana Plaza factory complex in Bangladesh killed more than 1,000 people and after which an investigation found evidence of employers abusing workers’ rights.
Speaking to Works Management, Emtex director Jeff Scrivner said that unless there was a world standard around health and safety, buildings and conditions agreed to by every buyer, such disasters would continue to occur. Otherwise, he continued, a “damage limitation exercise” would simply see textile buyers “move somewhere else in search of the cheapest product”.
But Emtex, the Nottingham-based trade body created in 1993 to assist the East Midlands region’s clothing and textiles businesses face the challenges of a rapidly changing industry, believes the solution is far from straightforward.
“It has many angles,” says Scrivner. “The (Bangladesh) government and unions are as much to blame as the factory owners; they allowed the poor conditions and wages in order to win business,” although he points out that “the owners and landlords must take the main blame”.
Scrivner says that although the people who were killed and injured “obviously should be compensated”, he goes on to ask “but by whom?”
Although he says that the argument that the buyer is at fault “does not stack up unless they did not thoroughly check the building and factories”, Scrivner goes on to admit that “if they were complicit in allowing poor manufacturing plants to exist then, yes, they should be accountable because they were getting an unfair price advantage”.
With a great deal of sub-contracting to “sweat shops” occurring, he concludes that “the buyer should control the supply chain, but manufacturers can be devious”.
This material is protected by copyright Ken Hurst 2013.