Fire related incidents have claimed many in the garments industry over the years. But thursday’s fire at KTS textile mills in Chittagong is reckoned to be the worst. Girl workers as young as twelve have perished. It is well known that conditions are ripe for such disasters. Factory owners ignore safety rules concerning smoke and heat detectors, and emergency exits either don’t exist or are blocked by merchandise.

When will “compliance” start to bite the garments industry? Compliance, that is, with minimum basic standards? Is it too much to expect the Bangladeshi industry to change after such horrendous incidents. The answer is obvious: yes They will change only when the foreign buyers are serious enough to do something about the plight of these workers. And when will that happen? We can’t expect change arising out of concern alone. However if the buyers start receiving the appropriate price signals from consumers  indicating that they don’t want goods from sweat-shops - sweat-shops which not only underpay workers but are death-traps - then we might be getting somewhere. And when will consumers start behaving ethically? …Campaigns like the Clean Clothes Campaign have their work cut out.

This latest tragedy comes days after two workers from last year’s tragedy at Savar toured Europe seeking compensation from European buyers (like Karstadt/Quelle, Zara, Carrefour and others with dealings with that collapsed factory)for the families of deceased and injured workers. See my earlier posts. One can only hope that compensation and assistance to the latest victims won’t be as tardy. Khaleda Zia visited the victims in hospital - did she promise anything? Like sorting out the factory owners?