Friday, 10 May 2013

Bangladesh Factory Collapse a Result of Un-regulated Capitalism

On 24th of April 2013, in the city of Savar, Bangladesh, a terrible tragedy occurred. The 8 story Rana Plaza, a building housing a number of factories shops and banks collapsed; leaving devastation and panic in its wake. At the time of writing, there have been a reported 2500 people injured and a staggering 1021 deaths [1].  When a crack in the building was noticed, several banks and shops closed due to concern for their staff. However, bosses of some factories were reported to have threatened wage cuts if workers did not turn up. For poor families such as the people in this article [2], it was impossible to go without the much needed wages. Rather than caring for the safety of staff the companies were more interested in their turn over and revenue.

The part of the story that caught my eye was that some of the garment factories within the building were producing items of clothing for western retailers. Companies such as Primark were employing these workers to produce clothes for them [3]. A similar occurrence, back in 2005, saw 64 garment workers dead when a factory collapsed in the very same city. The conditions being subjected to these workers make for a poor quality of life, often resulting in poverty [4].

We have all read the articles and heard about the thousands of casualties and everyone is looking for people to blame. Mohammad Sohel Rana, owner of the Rana Plaza has been arrested and charged with ‘death by negligence’. It is possible that he will get the death sentence [5]. However I think we need to look higher than the owners of such plazas and at the system that allows working conditions to get into such a state.

The Capitalist system that we live in, not only allows western companies to use cheap labour in foreign countries, it encourages it. Laws in our own countries, such as the minimum wage and fair work policies prevent companies producing a large quantity of products without incurring massive costs. To remedy this, they employ workers in Bangladesh or similar countries that don’t have the laws we have in the west, where their minimum wage does not cover the cost of living and people often go hungry and unsheltered. In attempts to cut production costs even further, health and safety is often overlooked, wages are cut, and staff are threatened if they demand fairer conditions.

We obviously can’t amend laws in Bangladesh, however the western companies employing these people can do their part. George Galloway, a Respect Member of Parliament for Bradford West [6], has launched a campaign to bring in legislation which will see western multinationals face severe penalties if they fail to ensure that people are working in safe conditions in the factories they are buying from [7]. This will mean that western multinationals will have to ensure safe working conditions for all employees in factories that they purchase from, preventing disasters of this kind to happen again. It is essential that our governments pass such laws to help the people who are being harmed by our own companies.

This is just one other example of why un-regulated capitalism is destroying the world and should not be allowed to continue. Unfair wages and putting people’s lives at risk is not acceptable, certainly not to provide us with cheaper clothes. It is the duty of the western companies to ensure that living conditions and wages of their employees are fair. This should take priority over producing clothing for cheap prices. Capitalism is well and truly here and there is nothing we can do to change that, apart from to keep it regulated and as fair as possible. It seems however, we are moving in the wrong direction. Let us hope we can make the right decisions to prevent a disaster like this happening again.

 References (Visited on 10/05/2013)