The Real Cost of Health and Safety Failures Commemorations to mark International Workers Memorial Day that took place throughout Scotland over the last weekend were particularly poignant as news continued to come out of Bangladesh of the rising death toll following the collapse of a building in Dhaka housing a number of garment factories.
While some retailers see the benefit of working with trade unions and NGOs to achieve this aim it is concerning that high street names such as Primark and Gap are refusing to sign up. Primark want a system where they are accountable to no one, that is far from independent and places no obligation on their company or their clients to remedy any defects. GAP had previously been a signatory to the ageement but walked away at the end of 2012 to implement its own programme described at the time by Scott Nova of the Workers Rights Consortium as "factory monitoring controlled entirely by the brand, with no transparency, no role for workers or their trade unions, no commitment to pay prices to suppliers that make it possible to operate responsibly, in fact, no binding commitments of any kind.”
Trade unions and responsible retailers are seeing their efforts to deliver real change in working conditions in the Bangladeshi garment industry and protect the lives of workers hampered by companies who act like Gap and Primark (both are full members of the Ethical Trading Initiative by the way).
The slogan for International Workers Memorial Day is "Remember the Dead; Fight for the Living", that fight could be so much easier if high street clothing retailers lived by their claims to be ethical organisations and recognise that independent inspections where factory owners are required to address failures and supported to do so is the only way to change the health and safety culture in the Bangladeshi garment industry.