Photo: Desiree Koppes

With the report Fatal Fashion, SOMO and the Dutch chapter of the Clean Clothes Campaign (SKC) put out a call for drastic changes in the garment industry in the wake of the fires in Bangladesh and Pakistan towards the end of 2012. However, the garment industry was not shocked into action until the collapse of the Rana Plaza complex in Bangladesh, which caused the deaths of 1100 workers. The public and media response was outraged at the inhuman conditions and brought the issue into full focus. In addition the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development, Ms. Plouman, has promised to improve the situation in Bangladesh.

Fatal Fashion

Analysis of recent factory fires in Pakistan and Bangladesh: a call to protect and respect garment workers’ lives

In March 2013, SOMO and the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) had released the report Fatal Fashion about the unsafe conditions of the garment factories in Bangladesh and Pakistan. This paper reports on how in late 2012 two factory fires in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and Karachi, Pakistan, killed more than 400 workers in total. Many of the involved parties, manufacturers, buyers, audit firms and local authorities, had neglected their responsibilities and so contributed to the life-threatening conditions of the buildings. In Fatal Fashion, SOMO and CCC call for drastic changes to be made in the clothing industry. SOMO and CCC made detailed recommendations regarding compensation to victims and surviving relatives, implementation of fire safety programmes and reform of industry-driven audit practices.

Companies sign Safety Accord

In spite of all this effort, again in April 2013 more than 1100 workers lost their lives in the collapse of the Rana Plaza complex in Bangladesh before clothing companies actually were moved to take measures. After the Rana Plaza disaster, 41 clothing companies signed the Accord on Fire & Building Safety in Bangladesh. This can definitely be considered a royally late move as the accord had been waiting for more than two years, but still, it is a good step in the right direction. There was more good news from the Dutch Ministry for Foreign Trade and Development: Minister Ploumen promised to make € 9m available for capacity building of unions and reinforcement of labour inspection in Bangladesh.