Author Note This paper is being submitted on November 22, 2014, for Prof. McKinney’s B293 Business Ethic’s course.
Bangladesh Factory Fires The value of our clothing is not of higher value than the human life. Thousands of Bangladesh factory workers are losing their lives in deteriorating building and sweatshops. The US has an ethical and moral obligation to help improve working safety and standards in Bangladesh. We have been using Bangladesh factories to produce our clothing for little money and now it’s time for us to re-invest in the factories. The garment industry is vital to Bangladesh it contributes to 75% of export revenue worth nearly 20 billion dollars and employs 3.5 million people. Workers endure horrible conditions. Some work 90 hours a week earning a mere 18 cents an hour with only 2 days off a month. There are no sick days or maternity leave and missing works constitutes termination. Workers are exploited and work in poor conditions with health and safety hazards (2012Lendman.) November 24, 2013 a fire broke out in an industrial building in Dhaka killing more than 112 workers and injuring 150. The majority of these workers were women and children (2012 Lendman.) The building was authorized for three stories has nine stories. The factory was substandard with no escape exits. The doors in the factory are locked and fire extinguishers, if they have them, do not always work. Workers were burned to death or died trying to jump from the burning building. Owners of these factories are not willing to bare even the smallest costs for building updates. Majority of the US buyers are looking for the cheapest prices for their product and owners will not sacrifice profit for the benefit of its workers. To maintain profit costs are cut in terms of up keeping buildings, maintaining safety hazards and rising wages (2013 Matthews.) Subcontracting is routinely used in the garment industry due to tight shipping deadlines and increasing demands for clothing. The Tazren Fashion INC. is a subcontractor for factories in Bangladesh. In 2011, Wal-Mart did an audit on Tazren and gave it a high risk rating (2012 Shayon.) Tazren was responsible for the factory fire in Dhaka and Wal-Mart labels were found in the wreckage. Wal-Mart had no knowledge of their product being subcontracted which is a common practice in Bangladesh. Factories often take on more contracts than they can produce and with tight deadlines any delays cost the factories money so they contact out factories that are subpar sweatshops. Many of the fires and deaths come from these subcontracted sweatshops that US stores are not aware of (2012 Shayon.) The ethical issues we face with contracting with Bangladesh are the poor human conditions and standards the factory workers have that produce our clothing. There are steps we can take to correct this problem. One step is to develop long term relationships with the suppliers. This will show the suppliers that our businesses are willing to invest in them and will be around for next year and not looking for cheaper prices elsewhere in return we ask the suppliers to invest in factory improvements and workers conditions. We can offer bonuses and rewards for factories that follow a higher standard and do not use subcontractors without our knowledge. We can set product pricing that the factories can realistically meet and deadlines that are more obtainable. A study by the Worker’s Rights Consortium concluded that a 100% increase in pay for factory workers would only increase the production cost of a 32 dollar shirt by 50 cents and US consumers were willing to pay the increase for the goods if they were made under better working conditions (2013 Hinniker-Major.) The us consumer feel that wage increases and better working conditions will help produce better quality goods and they are willing to pay a higher cost to see this happen.