Update: Bangladesh Garment Factory Bosses Arrested, Death Toll Rises
UPDATE: Via Reuters:
"Two factory bosses were arrested in Bangladesh on Saturday, 72 hours after the deadly collapse of a building where low-cost garments were made for Western brands, as the death toll rose to 325 and angry workers protested on the streets of the capital."
"The owner of the eight-storey building that fell like a pack of cards around more than 3,000 workers was still on the run."
Bangladeshi police fired tear gas and rubber bullets into a crowd of protesters demanding better working conditions after a garment factory collapsed, killing hundreds, earlier this week. M Asaduzzam, a police officer in the control room, called the protests "volatile." Asaduzzam said police used “rubber bullets and tear gas” to disperse the crowd. Meanwhile, the death toll in Wednesday’s deadly building collapse has risen to 300, with authorities expecting to find even more bodies as they search the building. A total of 50 people were found alive Friday, raising the hopes of thousands of relatives. The collapse came just months after a fire in November at a factory that makes clothes for Walmart and other Western labels.
An estimated 2,000 people had been rescued in two days, at least half of them injured, but up to 1,000 people remained unaccounted for, the Reuters news agency reports.
It prompted new criticism of Western companies who were accused by activists of placing profit before safety by sourcing their products from the country despite its shocking track record of deadly disasters.
British low-cost fashion line Primark and Spanish giant Mango have acknowledged having their products made in the collapsed block, while a host of brands including Wal-Mart and France's Carrefour are investigating.
Italy's Benetton placed large orders with one of the suppliers, documents found by activists appeared to show, but the group has denied having links to the building.
The US said it could not confirm whether any US companies were sourcing garments from the complex, as protesters in San Francisco targeted the headquarters of Gap with banners reading "No More Death Traps".
"But it does underscore that there's a need for the government, owners, buyers and labour to find ways of improving working conditions in Bangladesh," Patrick Ventrell, a deputy State Department spokesman, said.
How will the companies who had subcontractors in the Ranza Paza respond to this tragic loss of life? After the Tazreen fire, some companies paid compensation for the victims and their families. But not Walmart or Sears. Walmart also continues to refuse to join a plan to fund fire safety and other upgrades in the Bangladeshi factories that manufacture its goods.
Bangladeshi garment district workers have been protesting dangerous conditions, but rather than making any safety improvements, their government puts down the protests. At least one labor organizer was murdered in the country last year. American companies are profiting from these conditions, squeezing the factory owners who manufacture their goods for more and faster work at less pay, then hiding behind the fact that these are workers who don't "directly" work for them, and are subcontracted. They insist they are not culpable for the inevitable tragic outcomes. It's time for them to accept responsibility and make serious efforts towards workplace safety rather than making changes that are more for show than anything. They have the power to create a much improved way of life for these workers, but how tragic that they don't have the business ethics that would have guided them to willingly do so from the start.