Bangladesh, Dhaka, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, workers rights, human rights, sweatshops, sweatshop labor, sweatshop workers, forced labor, Primark, Mango, Tazreen Fashions

Photo by Andrew Biraj for Reuters

NOT AGAIN

One firefighter told Reuters that around 2,000 people were in the building when the upper floors caved into those below. Mohammad Asaduzzaman, the local police chief, said factory owners appeared to have ignored a warning to keep their employees out of the building after a crack was detected in the block on Tuesday.

Labor activists who entered the site found labels of several major retailers, including Mango, Primark, C&A, and Walmart.

Rana Plaza contained five garment factories, employing mostly women, including Ether Tex Ltd., whose chairman said he was unaware of any warnings not to open the workshops. “There was some crack at the second floor, but my factory was on the fifth floor,” Muhammad Anisur Rahman told the wire service. “The owner of the building told our floor manager that it is not a problem and so you can open the factory.”

Labor activists who managed to enter the site found labels linking the building’s facilities to several major European and U.S. brands and retailers, including Mango, Primark, C&A, KiK, and Walmart. The latter three were also implicated in the Tazreen Fashions fire in November.

Bangladesh, Dhaka, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, workers rights, human rights, sweatshops, sweatshop labor, sweatshop workers, forced labor, Primark, Mango, Tazreen Fashions

Photo by Andrew Biraj for Reuters

NOT TRYING

The collapse offers further evidence that voluntary, company-led monitoring is failing to protect workers’ lives, says Tessel Pauli from the Clean Clothes Campaign, an alliance of organizations in 15 European countries dedicated to improving working conditions in the global garment and sportswear industries. These unnecessary deaths will continue until brands and government officials agree to an independent and binding fire and building-safety program, she adds.

The collapse offers further evidence that voluntary, company-led monitoring is failing to protect workers’ lives.

“It’s unbelievable that brands still refuse to sign a binding agreement with unions and labour groups to stop these unsafe working conditions from existing. Tragedy after tragedy shows that corporate-controlled monitoring is completely inadequate,” Pauli says. “Right now the families of the victims are grieving and the community is in shock. But they, and the hundreds injured in the collapse, are without income and without support. Immediate relief and longterm compensation must be provided by the brands who were sourcing from these factories, and responsibility taken for their lack of action to prevent this happening.”

KEEP READING: WHAT ABOUT “SOCIAL AUDITS”? >

Bangladesh, Dhaka, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, workers rights, human rights, sweatshops, sweatshop labor, sweatshop workers, forced labor, Primark, Mango, Tazreen Fashions

Photo by Andrew Biraj for Reuters

NOT WORKING

The disaster also follows a scathing report from the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, the largest federation of unions in the United State, about the “yawning gap of regulation” in corporate social-responsibility and social-auditing programs.

The disaster follows a scathing report about the “yawning gap of regulation” in auditing programs.

“In many ways, the CSR industry’s reliance on subcontracting of inspection and verification replicates the structure of the very global corporations it is supposed to monitor,” the report reads. “Accountability is frequently lost in the ‘CSR supply chain,’ and where local monitors have actually sided with workers against employer exploitation, they too have become ignored in order to spare big-name household brands embarrassment.”

The CSR model’s “central failing,” according to AFL-CIO’s research, is its basis of short and cursory visits to factories and no discussion with workers. “This, coupled with the global big brands holding onto the ‘Walmart’ model of driving prices to local producers ever lower and demanding ever-faster production, the dominant social-auditing model will never achieve decent, secure jobs for the millions of workers at the sharp end of the global economy,” it adds.