Sample inspections at 10 garment factories in Bangladesh are already indicating that there are widespread safety issues, according to a Wonkblog interview with the top official overseeing the inspections.
The preliminary inspections make it clear that most factories will have “fire, electrical safety and potential structural problems,” according to Wonkblog. These include fire exists that aren’t separated from the building that leave workers exposed to dangerous conditions as they escape, electrical systems that have been expanded in an unsafe way, and a mismatch between the buildings’ structures and the plans filed with the government, which means a foundation may not actually be adequate to support the structure.
These findings come as systemic inspections began this week of 1,800 factories used to produce clothing for global retailers. The inspections are part of the legally binding agreement reached by 70 top global retailers, mostly European brands, after the Rana Plaza factory collapse last April killed more than 1,100 people. American companies led by Walmart and Gap, on the other hand, put forward their own plan with less accountability, although it will have its own inspection program. Walmart’s preliminary inspections found similar problems, as more than 15 percent of the factories failed safety standards. Other inspections from engineers found that three-fifths of the country’s garment factories are vulnerable to collapse.
American companies have also refused to contribute to the $40 million compensation fund for the families of the victims and other injured workers being set up by Bangladeshi officials, labor groups, and European retailers. Victims and their families still haven’t received full compensation 10 months after the collapse that they had been promised by the government or the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association. When they took to the street to protest this fact, they were met with violence from the police.
The government had also promised workers that it would raise the minimum wage and ease their ability to form unions in the wake of the tragedy. Yet while it raised the wage to the equivalent of $66 a month from $38, workers had been demanding $102 and the new wage will still make them the worst paid in the world. The government also approved a law meant to make it easier for workers to organize, but when they try to exercise that right they are met with violence, threats, and bribery.