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The Latest on the Bangladeshi Garment Industry

The Bangladeshi garment industry has become infamous for a multitude of workers’ rights abuses with extremely low pay, long hours and dangerous working conditions being key problems. During January 2019, widespread strike action has seen thousands of Bangladeshi garment workers take to the streets in protests largely related to low pay. 

Garment workers protests in Bangladesh

The garment worker protests have been met with a violent response and police have used water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds. This has led to numerous people being injured as well as the death of Sumon Mia, a 22-year-old garment worker who was hit in the chest by police gunshots as he was returning home from work. This led the government to form an investigative panel along with factory owners and union leaders and an agreement was reached to raise wages.

This has all taken place while the future of the Bangladesh Accord still hangs in the balance. The Accord was set up to ensure the safety of Bangladeshi garment workers in the wake of the Rana Plaza factory collapse. The Bangladeshi High Court ordered the Accord to be expelled from Bangladesh on 30 November 2018. However, the Accord’s appeal hearing over this decision has been repeatedly delayed in court, with a date currently set for February 18th.

Gender Justice t-shirts made by women in sweatshops

Meanwhile, The Spice Girls, Comic Relief and Stanley/Stella all stated that they were “shocked” by revelations that T-Shirts bearing the #IWannaBeASpiceGirl slogan and being sold to raise money for Comic Relief’s Gender Justice campaign had been made by female garment workers in Bangladesh earning the equivalent of 35p an hour. One of the workers told the Independent: “We don’t get paid enough and we work in inhuman conditions”.

Image: Comic Relief's Gender Justice Campaign

Considering how long the conditions of Bangladeshi garment workers have been widely known, it has to be asked how long it is acceptable for fashion suppliers to claim that they have been shocked by revelations of workers’ rights abuses in their supply chains.

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