Rana Plaza Factory Collapse, and interactions with Joe Fresh, Loblaws

In Bangledesh, 2013 the Rana Plaza factory collapsed killing 1129 people and, injuring 2500(+) more .  The building housed a bank, many small shops, apartments, and clothing factory’s. Days leading up to the collapse, the banks and shops closed upon noticing that the building had cracks appearing; but the factory workers were ordered to continue working the following day (Talaga, 2015). The building collapsed April 24 2013, in the morning, leaving thousands of women, men and children trapped.

The collapse of the factory has been called the deadliest accidental structural failure in modern history (Beaumont, 2016). The Rana Plaza was originally constructed for only the small shops, and deemed improper for use as a factory, but it was found that illegally constructed floors were added to the building without the proper permits (Talaga, 2015). With most of the factory’s workers being female, many were severely under paid; as little as 37 cents an hour Canadian (Beaumont, 2016). This leads the country’s garment industry to being second in size (compared to China), however the workers of Bangladesh are the lowest paid workers in the world. (Huffington Post UK, 2013) Even though Bangladesh has a terrible track record for unsafe environments in the workforce, many large name Western and European brands still rely on them to create garments (Huffington Post UK, 2013). In the year leading up to the collapse, the inspection department in Bangladesh had only 18 inspectors to monitor upwards of 100,000 factory’s (Pearshouse, 2013). In an interview between Richard Pearshouse and the Chief inspector of the inspection department in Bangladesh he stated “We always try to maintain good relations with management. Usually we give advance notice [of an inspection]. Sometimes we send a letter, sometimes we phone if the number is available.” (Pearshouse, 2013). This is often the case with many inspector in Bangladesh (and other countries) , with allowing the company to have time to be able to prepare often false views are given. Shortly two years after the collapse police charged the owner of the Rana Plaza with murder (BBC news). Not only Sohel Rana was charged but upward of 42 people are to face charges, accusations of ignoring the warnings of the collapse, amongst those 42 people “Eighteen people, including 17 of those charged with murder, have been charged with building code violation” (BBC news). The law permits those responsible for violating workplace health and safety provisions to be sentenced to jail time, however commonly they receive a small fine of $13 dollars (Pearshouse, 2013).

In the Rana Plaza 29 brands had their clothing made (Talaga, 2013), including Walmart, JC Penny, Childrens Place, Primark, and Joe Fresh. Joe Fresh, owned by the company Loblaws (a Canadian grocer)  paid a compensation of  “$1-million to the Save the Children Bangladesh charity as well as the Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralyzed hospital in Bangledesh” (Strauss and Marotte). In 2015 a $2 Billion class action lawsuit that Joel Rochon, owner of a Toronto law firm launched against Loblaws searched out for more compensation for the survivors and families of the Rana factory collapse who did not recieve any monetary compensation for their losses (CBC news, 2015). Loblaws states in a CBC interview that the lawsuit is “without merit” and will defend themselves against it (CBC news, 2015). A statement claims that Loblaws knew of the poor record of workplace safety standards in Bangladesh before the factory’s collapse (CBC news, 2015). The lawsuit seeks out fair compensations from Loblaws for the survivors and their families, and to scare other companies into searching better investigations towards their work place environments across seas (Beaumont, 2016). John Rochon and his team of lawyers flew to Bangladesh where they set up a site at the Rana Plaza disaster, they convinced 3850 victims (and victim family members) to sign forms stating they wish to be part of a class action in Canada (Beaumont, 2016). Upon being pressed about further actions towards safer workplace environments, and higher working wages at the factory’s Loblaws sources from they stated “We are not the appropriate person to answer (that question). We do not operate factory’s, and therefore do not determine the wages of the workers there” (Beaumont, 2016). Foreign companies that use workers from Bangladesh (including Joe Fresh) have a responsibility to ensure that the rights of workers are respected, this incident has shown that the shortcomings of “social audits” that many companies use to monitor the conditions at production factory’s, need to have more control, and take on the responsibility of even the lowest of their workers, but this is hardly ever the case (Pearshouse, 2013).

Cases such as these can be linked with sociologist such as Sykes & Matza, Copeland, and McMullen. In the eyes of Sykes and Matza (1957), often these cases are viewed as voluntary choices. The Denial of responsibility towards the factory owners, and the condemnation of condemner’s aka victim blaming, leads the company to passing on the responsibility towards the problem, leading to the conclusion that at any point workers could bring forth the idea of harm, or unsafe environments. In this case Joe Fresh (Loblaws) often passed on the blame towards the incident of the factory owners, and the unsafe conditions of the building. In the case of Copeland he pointed towards the idea of change in the workforce, the changes in legislation regulation. With this workers can ensure a safe working environment; even with this change cases such as the Rana Plaza Factory still seem to be happening, where workers are placed in unsafe environments and higher up forces (companies) try and mute the story. Finally, in the words of McMullen, the workers feel the pressure of having to do the work even in unsafe conditions, due to the fact it is better then not working at all. This can lead to victim blaming in disasters such as the Rana Plaza, due to the fact these people may have known about the harms, but did not say no to the work. This leads to what is the truth, and who is telling the truth.

References

BBC. “Bangladesh murder trial over Rana Plaza factory collapse.” BBC News. N.p., 1 June 2015. Web. 29 Mar. 2017. <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-32956705&gt;.

Beaumont, H. (2016, April 22). Three Years After a Factory Collapse Killed 1,130 Workers, This Brand is Still Making Clothes in Bangladesh. Vice. Retrieved March 03, 2017, from https://news.vice.com/article/three-years-after-a-factory-collapse-killed-1130-workers-this-brand-is-still-making-clothes-in-bangladesh

Copeland, David A., 1951 “There is filth on the floor and it must be scraped up”: The Muckrakers and press of the early 20th century” The media’s role in defining the nation : the active voice, Peter Lang Publishing, 2010, pp. 129-155

Huffington Post UK.(2013, April 24). Bangladesh Building Collapse: Factory ‘Supplied High Street Fashion Retailers’. Retrieved March 03, 2017, from http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/04/24/bangladesh-building-collapse_n_3147634.html

Loblaw will ‘vigorously defend’ lawsuit over Rana Plaza factory collapse. (2015, April 30). CBC news. Retrieved March 03, 2017, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/loblaw-will-vigorously-defend-lawsuit-over-rana-plaza-factory-collapse-1.3055872

McMullan, John. “News, truth, and the recognition of corporate crime”
Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, 2006, 48:6, pp. 905-939

Pearshouse, R. (2013, May 20). Bangladesh’s other workplace catastrophes. CNN. Retrieved March 03, 2017, from https://www.hrw.org/news/2013/05/20/bangladeshs-other-workplace-catastrophes

Strauss, and Marotte. “Loblaw outlines Bangladesh compensation plan.” The Globe and Mail. N.p., 23 Oct. 2013. Web. 29 Mar. 2017. <http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/international-business/loblaw-to-compensate-victims-of-bangladesh-factory-collapse/article15041964/&gt;.

Talaga, T. (2015, April 30). Bangladesh factory-collapse workers, families seek $2 billion from Loblaw. The star. Retrieved March 03, 2017, from https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2015/04/30/bangladesh-factory-collapse-workers-families-seek-2-billion-from-loblaw.html

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