Blog: Leonie BarrieBangladesh factory fire fallout continues

Leonie Barrie | 28 January 2013

As news emerges of yet more deaths in a garment factory fire in Bangladesh at the weekend, the repercussions of the Tazreen Fashion blaze last November, in which 112 people lost their lives, continue to reverberate across the industry.

In a timely comment at the beginning of the week, David Birnbaum argued that the Tazreen fire was the result of at least one customer's decision that minimal working conditions and subsistence wages are not cost-effective. The challenge now, he said, is to find a solution.

The factory had been producing apparel for Wal-Mart - and the retail giant last week outlined plans to enforce a "zero tolerance" policy on unauthorised sub-contracting with suppliers, in a bid to improve safety standards. The US company said it had also made "related ethical sourcing programme enhancements", informing suppliers of the changes via a recently distributed letter.

But whether or not these new policies will make a difference - or even be fully enforced, is open to debate. Industry watchers told just-style that there is "some value" in the announcement if the retailer follows through with its commitments, and that Wal-Mart should be congratulated for its action. But they also say the new rules do not go far enough and that enforcement could be a problem.

just-style also published details of the new guidelines, outlined in a 10-page letter that Wal-Mart sent to its suppliers.

Also stepping into the debate, the European Parliament asked Bangladeshi authorities to put in place health and safety measures to boost factory safety, after a resolution was adopted by MEPs. It will now be sent to authorities including the Bangladesh government and EU Member States.

And labour groups are seeking EUR3m (US$4m) in compensation for the families of victims killed in the Tazreen fire, along with an immediate and transparent investigation into the events leading up to the blaze.


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