Loblaw to compensate families of Bangladesh factory collapse victims
Published Monday, April 29, 2013 6:05AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, April 29, 2013 10:37PM EDT
Canada’s Loblaw Inc. said it will compensate the families of those who died in the collapse of a Bangladeshi factory, where workers made clothes for the company’s Joe Fresh brand.
The eight-storey building, which housed a number of garment manufacturers, collapsed last Wednesday. The death toll is currently at 382, but is likely to rise even higher as more bodies are pulled from the rubble.
A spokesperson for Loblaw said the company would provide support “in the best and most meaningful way possible,” according to The Canadian Press, ensuring victims and their families “receive benefits now and in the future.”
The announcement came as Loblaw and other Canadian retailers met to address working conditions in developing world sweatshops -- an issue that has gained new momentum in recent days following the garment factory collapse.
Loblaw said though it aims to create socially responsible products, their standards don’t currently address building construction or integrity.
It has emerged that workers at the Bangladeshi factory received an average annual salary of US$38 per month, or roughly 21 cents per hour.
Loblaw posted a statement on its website last week saying that its "audits align with those of the industry around the world." The statement acknowledged that its measures do not address issues related to building construction or integrity.
"Loblaw is committed to finding solutions to this situation by expanding the scope of our requirements to ensure the physical safety of workers producing our products," the statement said.
Elizabeth Klein, author of Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, has travelled to Bangladesh undercover to investigate garment factories.
She said most Canadian companies perform audits on their third-party garment manufacturers once or twice each year, but said the industry is "opaque" and it's often difficult to get answers about where products are coming from and how they're being made.
For the most part, auditors are looking for evidence of employee mistreatment, working conditions and cleanliness -- not whether a building is structurally sound.
"These brands don't own the factories -- they're sub-contracting the work out to factories they don't own. Audits may happen one or two times a year, they're going through with a checklist and as far as I know no one is really looking for structural inefficiencies in a building," Klein told CTV's Canada AM.
"This is sort of a new curveball. There are different problems in every country the fashion industry goes into, and this is clearly Bangladesh's weak point and brands have just really overlooked it to the detriment of everyone involved."
The collapse comes just five months after a factory fire in Bangladesh killed 112. The factory had no fire exits.
Bangladesh has some of the cheapest labour costs in the world.
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