Blog: Named and shamed
Leonie Barrie | 18 April 2005
Revelations that major European companies sourced from the Bangladeshi factory that collapsed last week will certainly throw the cat among the pigeons as far as the ethical sourcing argument goes. The Clean Clothes Campaign is listing Zara, Carrefour, Cotton Group, Steilmann, Neckermann and Scapino among customers at Spectrum Sweater – and some of the media pictures I’ve seen show the real horror of what went on. Some of the lower floors of the nine-storey building are so crushed that each measures only a few feet thick, and the task of recovering bodies is now being hampered by the fact that they’re so badly decomposed – and that no-one seems to know how many people were inside the building in the first place.
While it remains unclear if Spectrum Sweater Ltd had a licence from the factory inspections division of the Ministry of Labour to legally operate a night shift, the company was clearly in violation of Bangladesh labour law by allowing women to work in the factory at 1am – the time of the collapse.
Other questions also spring to mind. Why didn’t the government, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), and companies sourcing at the factory prevent or detect breaches of construction rules and labour laws. Many of the European companies producing at Spectrum Sweaters have codes of conduct governing safe and healthy workplaces, and claim to regularly audit their suppliers to ensure that these standards are met. These programs have been clearly insufficient in this terrible tragedy.
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