Retailers split on reform after Bangladesh factory collapse

May 30, 2013

A man holds up a photograph of his missing relative at the site where a garment factory building collapsed near Dhaka, Bangladesh.
A man holds up a photograph of his missing relative at the site where a garment factory building collapsed near Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Credit Wong Maye-E / Associated Press

The collapse of a factory in Bangladesh that killed more than a thousand workers caused a flurry of outrage and widespread calls for sweatshop reforms. But so did the fire four months earlier that killed more than a hundred workers at another Bangladesh garment factory.

This disaster, however, may be different. After all, the April 24 building collapse caused the biggest death toll in the history of the garment industry.

The Bangladesh government said it plans to raise the minimum wage for garment workers and allow them to form trade unions without permission from factory owners. It has also pledged to work with the International Labour Organization to establish and enforce minimum labor standards.

Also this month, nearly three dozen European retailers signed a legally binding agreement to improve the safety of garment factories in Bangladesh. However, the major U.S. retailers refused to join the effort. And if improved conditions lead to higher wages, will retailers just move to another poor country with workers willing to work for pennies an hour? To find out, Global Journalist spoke to a workers’ rights advocate and a Bloomberg News reporter.

Guests:

Renee Dudley, Reporter, Bloomberg News

Charles Kernaghan, Director, Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights