A fire broke out and killed over a hundred people in a Bangladeshi garment factory in late November. This was a factory that employed 1700 people. About a hundred people were also treated for injuries after jumping from the building to escape the fire. This is the kind of incident movies are made from.
An exit door was locked on the outside. The fire alarm was ignored with managers ushering people back to work. Complete disregard for safety. The bulk of the factory building did not have legal clearance.
Apparently the factory should have been shut down because fire officials had refused to renew its operating certificate. However, this does not amount to much as there was no follow up with a threat of a fine or of demolition of the illegally built parts of the factory. This is what happens when factories get more powerful and have more connections than the authorities that are set up to monitor them. That is the culture in this emerging country. Labour is cheap and everything has a price. And no doubt this is not the only factory operating like this. It is just the scale of the disaster that has bought it to our attention.
This all highlights the need for UK manufacturers of garments to conduct ethical audits and factory inspections so that we can rest assured that no individuals are harmed in the making of our clothes. Cheap is not everything.