NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights Responds to Tragic Bangladesh Factory Fire

September 12, 2016

As Workers Die in Another Factory Fire, Bangladesh Must Take Action to Assure Standards in All Factories

NEW YORK – A blast at a Bangladeshi food packaging factory on Saturday killed at least 31 people and injured many more. Sarah Labowitz, co-director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, which published a report in December 2015 revealing that thousands of garment factories in Bangladesh remain outside factory inspection programs, issued the following statement in response:

“The deaths of dozens of workers in this most recent fire are a reminder that fire and building safety in Bangladesh remains an urgent, unsolved problem. Given these risks and the growing insecurity highlighted by the terror attack in July, the comparative benefits of doing business in Bangladesh are rapidly diminishing. Both government and industry must now show that they can actually manage the manufacturing sector by enforcing minimum standards for safety in all factories – not just some. It’s unacceptable that three years after the most deadly industrial accident in recent memory, factory fires like this one are still claiming workers’ lives in Bangladesh.”

Speaking about the two foreign safety initiatives, the Accord and Alliance, that were launched in response to the Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013, Labowitz said, “Inspecting 1,900 factories is an important step, but it’s only a drop in the bucket when you consider the 7,000 factories in the garment industry alone. The Tampaco Foils fire shows that there’s an urgent need for bigger solutions across industries, not just in clothing factories.”

Labowitz is the co-author of two reports on the Bangladeshi factory industry the Center released since the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse killed more than 1,100 garment workers: “Beyond the Tip of the Iceberg: Bangladesh’s Forgotten Apparel Workers,” released in December 2015, and  “Business as Usual is Not an Option: Supply Chains and Sourcing After Rana Plaza,” released in April 2014. “Beyond the Tip of the Iceberg” revealed that in the nearly three years since Rana Plaza, thousands of garment factories employing nearly three million workers remain unregistered and outside the reach of any regulatory oversight. The report, which includes an interactive map, reveals the previously unknown extent of the size of the garment manufacturing industry in Bangladesh, the significant reliance on subcontracting within the industry, the number of invisible workers who remain outside the purview of safety reform initiatives, and just how much hasn’t changed since Rana Plaza.


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