On April 24, 2013, Rana Plaza, an illegally constructed eight-story building in Savar that housed five garment factories were collapsed and killed at least 1,129 and injured 2,515 workers. Only five months earlier of the Rana Plaza tragedy, the fire at Tazreen Fashions in 2012, caused the deaths of 117 workers and severely injured a further 200 workers (Chowdhury, Tanim 2016). These are the worst industrial accidents on record, that awoke the world to the poor labour conditions in the ready-made garment (RMG) sector in Bangladesh (ILO, The Rana Plaza Accident and its aftermath, 2021). Along with the loss of many lives and life-threatening injuries, the world also came to face another harsh reality that no insurance arrangement was in place to pay the victims compensation (International Labour Organization, 2021). Which shown serious types of mismanagement and ethical lapses by the industry stakeholders.
From my point of view, the international brands/retailers that contract out their apparel manufacturing work to factories in our country are not responsible for ethical lapses made by our factory owners. It is quite obvious that a customer wants to have a quality product with the cheapest price within the required deadline. But what exactly happens behind the production or supply chain journey is not the main focus area as far as professional or business concern. Especially when it is an international business transaction. The foreign buyers are not legally responsible to grow and develop our industry. For these, there are different types of national and international organizations, institutions, activists, associations, and trade unions e.g: Ministry of Labour and Employment, Country’s labour code, International Labour Organization (ILO), International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF), Garments owner’s association, trade unions, National Garment Workers Federation, etc. it is their responsibility to ensure all sorts of discipline in garments industry and minimize the ethical lapses between factory owners and workers. They should adopt risk management approaches like health and safety policies, risk assessment, safety plans and auditing, and training employees through qualified personnel from diverse backgrounds to deliver risk management services (Chowdhury, Tanim 2016).
Nevertheless, after the recognized disasters like the Rana Plaza collapse and fire at Tazreen Fashions, it is an ethical obligation for all the related stakeholders to provide reasonable safety to workers. And garments factory owners should play a crucial role in decision making because of their own interests; as we are aware of those business decisions which almost always affect others and therefore have an ethical dimension that cannot be omitted from the decision maker’s frame of reference (McCombs School of Business, 2021). But the harsh reality is company officials focus upon only profits and ignore worker safety (School of Management, Kathmandu University, 2021).
On the other hand, human rights activists, humanitarian organizations, and some NGOs played a role like a catalyst to bring the disruption happening in garments factories in Bangladesh and they tried to improve factory safety for workers following the 2013 Rana Plaza building collapse, they addressed some issues e.g: workplace safety, workplace accident and violence, fair wages, health insurance, and any other ergonomic safety issues. In this connection, these organizations, activists, and NGOs made complaints against some factories that have issues. The international brands/retailers and mass media accepted these complaints which cost our factory owners in terms of work order cancellation or discontinuation of the future working relationship. The decision made by international brands or buyers are somewhat agreeable, who want to be the part of another deadliest industrial accidents? Moreover, I feel there were some other reasons like a business decision to move a safe place and to have converged sourcing point as they had to shift some orders to other countries; after the tragedy factory capacities and deadline would be an issue due to unwillingness of worker and frequent inspection of law enforcing teams, factory officials would not be able to engage worker for overtime as it gathers more people in a factory space or building than the standard measure. But it was not ethical to cancel an order from the factories that are maintaining the safety standards and other contract issues with the international buyers.
Muhammad Faisol Chowdhury & Tasnim Rezoana Tanim, 2016. "Industrial Accidents in Bangladesh Apparel Manufacturing Sector: An Analysis of the Two Most Deadliest Accidents In History," Asian Journal of Social Sciences and Management Studies, Asian Online Journal Publishing Group, vol. 3(2), pages 115-126.
b. International Labour Organization, 2021. A Legacy of Rana Plaza: Making employment injury insurance a reality for all.
c. Ilo.org. 2021. The Rana Plaza Accident and its aftermath. [online] Available at: https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/geip/WCMS_614394/lang--en/index.htm [Accessed 26 July 2021].
d. McCombs School of Business, University of Texas, 2021. Collapse at Rana Plaza - Ethics Unwrapped. [online] Ethics Unwrapped. Available at: https://ethicsunwrapped.utexas.edu/video/collapse-at-rana-plaza [Accessed 26 July 2021].
e. Kathmandu University, S., 2021. Collapse at Rana Plaza.docx - Collapse at Rana Plaza The deadly collapse of a garment factory building in Bangladesh stirs debate over worker safety in | Course Hero.
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