Working to Make Fashion Safe


Garments factory in Bangladesh
By Fahad Faisal (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

Liz Waid and Luke Haley look at the safety of the people who make clothes in Bangladesh. The conditions are not safe. But some people are working to improve them.

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Transcript


Voice 1  

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2

And I’m Luke Haley. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

It was November 24, 2012. The Tazreen Fashion building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, caught fire. The building was a garment factory. Garments are clothes. Inside the factory, people made clothes for companies all over the world. But the building did not have an emergency fire door. One hundred and seventeen people died. The incident was in the news all around the world. It was not the first serious accident in a garment factory in Bangladesh. There had been other accidents, where more people died. People said that things needed to change.

Voice 2 

But in April of 2013, just five months later, another tragic accident happened. It involved another garment factory in the Rana Plaza building. The building fell down and collapsed. This time, more than 1,000 people died. Now, even more people started talking about the situation. Who was to blame? What were the working conditions in Bangladesh factories? Who should take responsibility for making things better? Today’s Spotlight is on the global garment industry. We will look at different efforts to improve the situation for garment factory workers.

Voice 1 

In 2012, the global clothing market was worth 1.7 trillion dollars. It employed 75 million people. It is an important industry. But there are many problems with it.

Voice 2 

The accidents in Dhaka helped people around the world see these problems. The garment industry is not fair for everyone. Often, clothing companies are based in one country. But the company employs people from other countries to make their clothes. This is often the lowest cost method. The value of money and cost of living can be very different between countries. A clothes company can pay workers in countries like India and Bangladesh lower wages to make clothes. Then they sell the clothes at a greater profit. But often foreign clothes companies cannot, or do not, look into the conditions of the workers that make the clothes. And many times, these conditions are very, very poor.

Voice 1 

There are more than 4,000 garment factories in Bangladesh. The wages in Bangladesh are the lowest in the industry. In 2012, the garment industry was 45% of Bangladesh’s industrial employment and 80% of its exports. But the garment industry was only 5% of the national income.

Voice 2 

These low wages have brought more companies and jobs to the country. But in many cases, these wages are not high enough to provide a good quality of life for workers. Often, workers work very long hours. Sometimes even children work illegally. Safety rules are often not enough to protect workers. And even when they are, the rules are not always enforced. The day before the Rana Plaza building fell down, small breaks began to appear on the walls. People left the building for a safety inspection. The engineer said it was not safe. Many workers were afraid. But the building’s owner forced his workers go back to work the next day.

Voice 1 

Not every building, or garment production company, is like Rana Plaza. TEB Fashion International is a clothes company based in the country of Turkey. The letters in TEB stand for Turkish know-how, European thinking, and Bangladesh competition. TEB produces clothes in Dhaka, Bangladesh. They employ 400 workers. The workers receive three good meals a day. Their wages are fifty [50] percent higher than the lowest wage required by law. TEB even provides medical aid and child care. They also provide fire safety education. Huseyin Guller is the head of sales and design at TEB. He told Fashion United,

Voice 3 

“We want to be an example for other companies. We cannot imagine good quality in dark factories with missing emergency doors and bad working conditions. Yes, it is possible to produce very cheap t-shirts in factories like Rana Plaza. But there is no responsibility.”

Voice 2 

TEB uses real-time cameras in their factory. They can watch what is happening in Dhaka from Turkey. This encourages the managers to operate a higher level of responsibility.

Voice 1 

After the tragic accidents in 2012 and 2013, things began to improve in Bangladesh. More than thirty [30] European clothing companies signed an agreement with the government of Bangladesh. It is called The Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety. The agreement involves legal responsibilities to help improve safety. The government of Bangladesh also opened The Centre of Excellence. This education project trains managers and workers on health and safety, as well as worker rights.

Voice 2 

However, workers continue to need support. Protecting worker rights is the most important issue. Emma Daly is from the organization Human Rights Watch. In Human Rights Watch YouTube film, she reported,

Voice 4 

“Since the Rana Plaza and Tazreen Fashion tragedies, we have seen many improvements to health and safety conditions in Bangladesh’s factories. But we have also seen continuing and serious violations of labour rights.”

Voice 1 

In March of 2015, the Bangladesh government started a new project. The International Labour Organization and the government of Norway helped. Together, they opened a telephone help line for workers. With the help line, workers will be able to report their concerns.

Voice 2 

Allowing workers to form groups, or unions, is another important step that will improve the garment industry. These groups can work together to demand change. Clean Clothes Campaign is a non-government organization. It has been working to improve the industry for 25 years. The Clean Clothes Campaign states on its website:

Voice 5 

“Trade unions offer the best way to establish a fair deal for workers. Unions give workers the chance to stand together to defend their rights.”

Voice 1 

All levels of the industry can work to improve the situation. Governments, factory managers, and clothes companies can all change their policies. TEB had to pay extra to make its building safe. Their clothes cost a little bit more. And they cannot compete with very low-cost clothes. But TEB has a company saying. Guller repeated it for Fashion United:

Voice 3 

“Take care of your employees. Only then will you get the best quality.’

Voice 2 

The writer of this program was Jen Hawkins. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, “Working to Make Fashion Safe.”

Voice 1 

Tell us what you think about today’s program. You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at radio@radioenglish.net. And find us on Facebook - just search for Spotlight Radio. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

Do you know where your clothes come from? Do you know if the workers who make them are safe?

Comments


Kaleb Kolaibi's avatar
Kaleb Kolaibi
said on August 18, 2016

I think that first reason which caused the fire accidents and all accidents in Bangladesh (or India or Pakistan…etc) are the discrease of Human value in those communities and corruption of governments there. And I think that the governments and foreign companies carry the first responsibility while the Human rights organizations and the communities there carry the second responsibility.
Actually I don’t care about my clothes where come from because everything here (in third world’s countries) not correctly.  While I can’t know anything about the workers who made it.
God bless you

Avatar Spotlight
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on August 18, 2016

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight programme
Subject: answer to the question above
Date: Thursday 18, August 2016
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Liz Waid, Jen Hawkins, Luke haley, and Michio Ozaki:

At first, I want to thank you to bring us readers and leaners of English more one great article. Thanks!
Ye, I do.
My clothes come from Brazil made by Brazilian workers, United States made by American workers mainly jeans trousers, and China made by chinese workers.
No, I do not know if the workers who make them are safe. But I would like that they be safe to do their important job. Because they deserve that and here in Brazil there are several kind of great and fashion clothes made by that people.

Yours regards,
Severino Ramos
Brazil

Avatar Spotlight
kenhieuloilam
said on August 18, 2016

We live and work. We live our lives and die for beautiful good things. We work hard to get essential things for our lives. We live a beautiful good life. We respect beautiful good things. We respect our precious dignity. We respect everyone’s precious dignity. We develop all the life’s sides. There are the products that are only bought when working conditions and policy are controlled. Good working conditions and policy help us produce good quality products. We improve product quality. We develop life.