While two different factory safety upgrade plans have been put forward by large clothing retailers in the wake of the Rana Plaza collapse in April, there have yet to be actual factory inspections. Leadership teams have been appointed, but the 2,000 factories used by those who signed on haven’t seen action from those groups.
Individual brands, however, have inspected more than 500 factories themselves. As The Guardian reports, “[I]t is hoped that work will meet the standards of the international safety deals.”
Seventy top retailers signed on to a legally binding plan to upgrade factories in Bangladesh, which was announced in July. The companies were supposed to submit details about their suppliers by July 15, and then 1,500 to 2,000 of the country’s garment factories would be due for inspection. Meanwhile, 17 major U.S. retailers, including Walmart and Gap, have refused to sign onto that plan, putting forward their own, which is not legally binding.
The collapse, which killed 1,127 people, was officially attributed to shoddy building materials and violations of building regulations. Since then, a university engineering team that has surveyed buildings found that three-fifths of them are vulnerable to collapse. But even once inspections get underway, they may run into more problems, as there is a huge shortage of inspectors needed to cover all of the country’s garment factories.
Meanwhile, The Guardian also notes that the 15 brands whose clothes were produced in the factories haven’t agreed yet to long-term compensation for the injured workers and the families of those who died. Primark, Inditex (which owns Zara), and others have paid them short-term aid, but that runs out at the end of this month. Walmart, for its part, has not been involved in compensating victims because it says the work on its garments that came from there was unauthorized. Some brands, such as Primark, Benetton, and Bonmarché, are discussing long-term compensation, but it likely won’t come until the new year as negotiations drag on. Primark has built a database to track those affected by the disaster, which so far stands at over 3,600 people. About 300 have yet to be identified.
Other promises made in the wake of the collapse are coming to some form of fruition. The Bangladeshi government has eased workers’ ability to form unions, although when they have tried to organize they have been met with violence and other deterrences. The country is also expected to raise the minimum wage soon, although it looks to fall far below what workers have been demanding.