Tazreen factory fire: criminal negligence leads to tragedy

It was just a couple month ago that we wrote about the brutality of the fashion industry - about the factory fires in Pakistan, the brutality, worker unrest and murder of union activists in Bangladesh, and the exploitation faced by the models who use their faces and bodies to sell the clothes.

We also spoke about alternatives: about fair labour standards and ethical fashion, and about the South African union that is trying to transform the industry.

And now we’re writing about it again.

The recent fire at the Tazreen Fashion factory shows just how urgent this issue is. The Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights have researched and produced a comprehensive report about this entirely preventable tragedy. At least 200 workers burned to death. They were locked in my managers attempting to keep production going. This is a pattern we have seen repeated at the recent fires in Pakistan, as well as 2010′s Hameem factory fire in Bangladesh.

In all cases, the workers are paid a pittance to work in unsafe conditions producing clothes for major Western brands. We buy these clothes on our high street, and we can put pressure on the companies who commission this work to ensure that all workers in the supply chain are well paid and work in safe conditions.

Unless we take action now, workers will continue to die.

The factory produced clothing for the following companies:

  • Wal-Mart
  • Disney
  • Edinburgh Woollen Mill
  • KiK (a German company with shops in Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia and Croatia)
  • Teddy Smith (France),
  • Piazza Italia (Italy)
  • Li & Fung (which is involved with some labour rights issue in Turkey about Esprit production).
We need to hold these companies responsible for what happens in their supply chain. In 1911 in New York, 146 workers – mostly young women – dies in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. The outrage that resulted lead to legislation and the creation of fair labour standards and the right to organise in the US.
We need to use our outrage now to win better conditions for workers in the textile industry.
This excellent video compares the legacy of the Triangle fire with what is happening in Bangladesh today.

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