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Retailers in spotlight following Bangladesh factory collapse

Thursday, Apr 25, 2013 - 02:40

April 25 - Clothing retailer Primark confirms one of its suppliers occupied a section of the garment factory building in Bangladesh which collapsed, killing over 180 people. Ivor Bennett speaks to Oxfam in Bangladesh about whether the accident will lead to change in the garment industry.

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These families face an anxious wait. Their relatives are still missing after a textile factory collapsed in Bangladesh. At least 175 people have been confirmed dead so far, over a thousand injured. The factory collapsed after cracks were found in the building the day before. Oxfam's Gareth Price-Jones says the accident could have been avoided - and wants retailers to demand stricter regulations. (SOUNDBITE) (English) GARETH PRICE-JONES, OXFAM'S BANGLADESH COUNTRY DIRECTOR SAYING: "One of the tragedies here is that many of the staff in these factories had expressed concern about going in following the warnings and they were told they'd have pay docked if they didn't. Now it's very easy for the retailers to send a message to all their suppliers that those kind of warnings need to be taken seriously and need to be acted upon." Some of the workers in the factory were making clothes for Primark - the British retailer confirming one of its suppliers was on the second floor. Low-cost labour's made Bangladesh a popular manufacturing base for many western brands. According to Oxfam the average wage is 40 dollars a month. Although retailers use the suppliers, they don't own the factory meaning they have no legal responsibility. But campaigners say they have a moral one. SOUNDBITE (English) GARETH PRICE-JONES, COUNTRY DIRECTOR BANGLADESH, OXFAM, SAYING: "The clothing companies have a huge amount of power. These are billion dollar companies. They have a huge amount of power to change the way that building safety is accepted here. They have the ability to make it, so that it's taken much more seriously, and we think there is a moral obligation on them to that." Primark's issued a statement saying it was shocked and saddened by the incident and expressed its condolences to those affected. The company added it's been reviewing factory standards with NGOs for several years, and now plans to look at building integrity in the country too. Bangladesh is the second biggest apparel exporter in the world and accidents like these are nothing new. Over a hundred people died just five months ago after a fire at a government factory in Dhaka. There are fears this latest tragedy could damage the country's reputation and that of retailers. But shoppers in London at least, seem unaffected. SOUNDBITE (English) UNIDENTIFIED MAN, SAYING: "I'm sorry for the people but it's not going to change my shopping habits." SOUNDBITE (English) UNIDENTIFIED MAN, SAYING: "When I buy clothes, if I'm being 100% honest, I don't think about where they come from." SOUNDBITE (English) UNIDENTIFIED MAN, SAYING: "It's not that it doesn't bother me, it just probably wouldn't affect my shopping habits" Over 3000 people were in the factory when it collapsed and the rescue mission could go on for a week. The debate over worker safety though will go on for a lot longer.

Retailers in spotlight following Bangladesh factory collapse

Thursday, Apr 25, 2013 - 02:40

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