Bangladesh's garments industry, the life-line of millions of people and one of its major national export industries, is now in tatters. The government recently announced the shutdown of 18 garment factories due to safety concerns. Critics fear that the government does not have the ability or intention to bring back confidence to factory workers by robustly implementing health and safety measures in the industry.
It was fortuitous that Star trek premiered in London on Thursday. Fortuitous because it book-ened a week which started with a tragic factory fire in Bangladesh. A factory producing cheap clothing for global brands sold internationally... today we find ourselves at a crossroads between the world we have always had and (metaphorically) the world of Kirk and Spock.
The outrage at such severe abuses mirrors responses to human trafficking and 'modern day slavery', as all agree that exploitation should not have a place in our supply chains. But whether low pay or excessive hours, bonded labour or human trafficking, the common thread is profits trumping rights and talk in place of action.
When news broke last week that yet another disaster had befallen a garment factory in Bangladesh, I was angered and upset, but not very surprised. It had been a matter of months since the Tazreen factory fire had claimed 112 workers' lives, and it was inevitable that tragedy would strike again before long. I sat at my laptop, scrolling through Twitter, as more details unfolded. Incidentally, I was wearing a Primark dress.
The Bangladesh factory supplied goods to a number of fast fashion retailers, including Primark, J.C. Penney and allegedly, Wal-Mart. And where is the outrage? Where are the crowds of protesters lobbying for better oversight of apparel production? Apparently, we can sacrifice a few human lives for a cheap pair of sunglasses.