Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts

1 year after factory collapse, Bangladeshis suffer

First Published Apr 24 2014 01:40 pm • Last Updated Apr 24 2014 01:40 pm

Savar, Bangladesh • One year after the Rana Plaza garment factory collapsed in a pile of concrete slabs and twisted metal, Bangladeshi seamstress Shefali says she would rather starve to death than return to factory work.

Like many survivors of the worst disaster the garment industry has ever seen, 18-year-old Shefali, who goes by one name, says she suffers from depression and has flashbacks of the catastrophe that killed more than 1,100 people. She was injured in the collapse that happened a year ago Thursday and has lingering back pain.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

And despite efforts by Western brands to improve safety at the Bangladeshi factories that produce their clothes, Shefali fears nothing good will trickle down the poorest of the poor. The country has one of the lowest minimum wages in the world — about $66 a month — while churning out goods for some of the world’s leading retailers.

"We die, we suffer, nobody takes care of us," Shefali said earlier this month as she toured the site of the collapse, now a barren, fenced-off expanse. She hasn’t started working again and stays at home with her parents.

"I had dreams of getting married, having my own family," she said. "But now everything looks impossible."

There have been some significant developments. The owner of the illegally constructed Rana Plaza building is behind bars, pending an investigation, but there has been no word on when he will be put on trial. The owners of the five factories operating inside the building also have been detained.

Authorities have appointed more factory inspectors, plan to appoint more, and say they aim to ensure that no new factories are built without following proper safety regulations.

But problems remain. According to Human Rights Watch, the international companies that sourced garments from five factories operating in the Rana Plaza building are not contributing enough to the trust fund set up to support survivors and the families of those who died.

"One year after Rana Plaza collapsed, far too many victims and their families are at serious risk of destitution," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at the organization. "International garment brands should be helping the injured and the dependents of dead workers who manufactured their clothes."

The target for the fund, chaired by the International Labor Organization, is $40 million, but only $15 million has been raised so far, HRW said. Retailers Bonmarche, El Corte Ingles, Loblaw and Primark have all pledged money.


story continues below
story continues below

Mojtaba Kazazi, a former U.N. official who heads a committee to execute the fund, said they have started disbursing 50,000 takas ($640) as initial payments to the victims’ families.

The very structure of Bangladesh’s garment industry is also viewed as problematic.

According to a recent study by New York University’s Stern School of Business, an "essential feature" of the sector involves factories subcontracting work to other workshops that have even worse conditions.

"In the absence of regulation by the government of Bangladesh, the prevalence of indirect sourcing has resulted in a supply chain driven by the pursuit of lowest nominal costs," said Sarah Labowitz, co-director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights and co-author of the report. "That means that factories receiving subcontracts are operating on razor-thin margins that leave concerns about safety and workers’ rights perpetually unaddressed."

Many garment workers are skeptical that there will be any lasting change.

When the collapse occurred on April 24, 2013, thousands of Bangladeshis were toiling inside the Rana Plaza in Savar, the center of the country’s $20 billion garment industry.

A violent jolt shook the floors around 9 a.m. Then the eight-story building gave a deafening groan, the pillars gave way and the entire structure went down in a heap with terrifying speed.

Investigators say a host of factors contributed to its collapse: It was overloaded with machines and generators, constructed on swampy land, and the owner added floors in violation of the original building plan.

The final death toll was 1,135 people, with thousands more rescued from the wreckage. Rescuers found Reshma Begum 17 days after the collapse, and authorities say her survival was miraculous.

When the building began crumble around her, Begum said she raced down a stairwell into the basement, where she became trapped near a wide pocket that allowed her to survive.

She found some dried food and bottles of water that saved her life.

Next Page >


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.