A strong demand

 

Ruth Tanner, campaigns and policy director at the anti-poverty charity War on Want, said: \”If UK high street chains like Primark had put in place proper measures to ensure the workers who make their clothes are safe, these deaths could have been avoided.

\”While Primark has taken some responsibility, the retailer and the other companies involved must pay full compensation, including loss of earnings, sign the Bangladesh Fire and Safety Agreement and ensure such a disaster never happens again.\”

 

It\’s that colonialism thing again isn\’t it?

Islingtonistas still do know how the poor brown people should order their lives.

22 thoughts on “A strong demand”

  1. It’s worth reading the Bangladesh Fire & Safety Agreement. It contains such gems as:
    “The ideal Task Force will include labour representatives selected from Bangladeshi trade unions, international trade unions and labour non-governmental organizations (“NGOs”), …”

    I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.

  2. What a lot of people don’t understand is that when a company sets up shop overseas, often the law does not allow it to retain full control over its operations. “Local content” laws are prevalent in most countries, which require a company to employ X-number of locals, with a minimum in managerial positions. If there are no suitably qualified locals, tough shit: you have to first put them in the position and then train them to be competent (good luck doing that with somebody who knows the law requires him to be employed in his position).

    Something people often miss about the Bhopal disaster is that the management of the UC plant was 100% local: the factory was locally run by locals, albeit owned by foreigners. It should also be noted that the Deepwater Horizon was staffed by Americans, and as far as I have been able to work out the entire BP management of the operation was American. Yet somehow the actions and decisions of the individuals in charge of the day-to-day operations are less important than the nationality of the parent company? Pull the other one. For sure, the parent company must bear full responsibility, but thereafter the blame must be shared within the organisation and those on the ground making the decisions need to bear the lion’s share unless it can be proven that senior management imposed unsafe working practices on its operations staff.

    And in a lot of cases, the national law requires that the parent company employs locals regardless of their competence; and the parent company is expected to shoulder 100% of the blame.

    All these lefties saying that Primark should increase safety in Bangladeshi factories probably don’t realise that this would entail firing whole rafts of local management and replacing them with expatriates.

  3. To be fair, they’re not being racist here. They regularly try to tell us how rich white people should live too.

  4. Another feature is the cowardly difference in attitude towards those at differnet points in the chain. So Primark: evil capitalist dogs (i.e. pantomime villain) who suck the life from decent people; consumer: er, don’t want to upset them by making even the tiniest suggestion that they too have a responsibility towards those workers in the Bangladesh. Don’t want to suggest that, as they buy their cheap clothes, they too should make checks to ensure their retail investment is ethical, sustainable etc. Because, they’re our donors and we don’t want to upset our donors. Because in 2013 morals are like the meat on our table; we like the nice clean healthy feeling of consuming without thinking too much about the nasty, dirty bits of production. so, the credit crunch was all about greedy bankers making toxic loans; the borrower should never be asked to ponder whether he should have taken out that loan. No, the donors musn’t under any circumstance be asked to consider their responsibility.

    We can’t deflect guilt unless we find someone on whom to deflect it. So, if we want to feel bad about other people in other parts of the world, we must find somebody else to blame. And who better than a corporate person rather than a real one.

    And in case you’re wondering: I won’t be donating to War on Want anytime soon.

  5. War on Want supports the Robin Hood tax, which would make everyone poorer, and opposes free trade, which is the only proven route out of poverty for a society. They’re either stupid or evil.

  6. When laws are broken and building codes ignored the solution is obvious.

    Make more laws and building codes.

  7. hang on a minute – we are free to choose who we wish to trade with and take into account things like the safety of workers. There’s nothing in the free-market bible that says firms have to ignore everything except the price and quality of the goods.

    it’s not “colonialism” for a western firm to say it only wants to buy from firms who meet certain standards, and for western consumers to make similar demands.

    As countries get richer, things like workers’ rights and building regulations tend to improve, but the prompting of overseas trading partners can accelerate the process.

  8. Tim N, Bhopal was at least partly state-owned, as well, IIRC.

    I attended a presentation once that said the parent company had tried several times to close the plant due to non-profitability, but local politicians and unions had intervened to prevent it because it employed lots of people. I could never find a source for this so I generally don’t repeat it, but if true then it is startlingly obvious where the blame lies for shoddy work practices which lead to the accident.

    Interestingly, the accident at Flixborough occurred at a time when the plant was not profitable due to the sales price of the product being set by the government…who refused to increase it, despite requests from the plant owners.

    There’s a lesson in there.

  9. Luis, Western companies are fine to impose that their products meet certain standards. Sometimes that requires that the workers and their conditions are up to a certain standard too. But to then go into the detail that the workers should have x minutes break every y hours, that z toilets/n people should be provided, that n fire escapes exist, that nursery facilities should be available, etc. is colonialism. And the later is what the progressives want Primark et al to do. That responsibility lies with the country’s authorities. If they don’t check and monitor and control it, it can’t and shouldn’t be the fault of Primark if something then goes wrong.

  10. Surreptitious Evil

    it’s not “colonialism” for a western firm to say it only wants to buy from firms who meet certain standards, and for western consumers to make similar demands.

    But it is colonialism for a Western pressure group to insist (and try to enforce) a standard upon a foreign country that is different from that:

    a) Decided upon by the locals (even given some democratic deficit issues)

    b) Requested (and enforced) by the corporate buyers

    c) Desired by the consumers.

    The problem here is that the consumers want cheap stuff, the corporates are providing it and local enforcement of local laws is a local responsibility – not that of well-off Western guilt-trippers.

  11. So Much for Subtlety

    Edward Lud – “Bhopal was at least partly state-owned, as well, IIRC.”

    From Wikipedia:

    UCIL was the Indian subsidiary of Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), with Indian Government controlled banks and the Indian public holding a 49.1 percent stake.

    Tim Newman

    “I attended a presentation once that said the parent company had tried several times to close the plant due to non-profitability, but local politicians and unions had intervened to prevent it because it employed lots of people. I could never find a source for this so I generally don-t repeat it, but if true then it is startlingly obvious where the blame lies for shoddy work practices which lead to the accident.”

    Well reading between the lines, it looks a little that way:

    In the early 1980s, the demand for pesticides had fallen, but production continued, leading to buildup of stores of unused MIC. … Factors leading to the magnitude of the gas leak mainly included problems such as; storing MIC in large tanks and filling beyond recommended levels, poor maintenance after the plant ceased MIC production at the end of 1984, failure of several safety systems due to poor maintenance, and safety systems being switched off to save money

  12. So Much for Subtlety

    Edward Lud – “Bhopal was at least partly state-owned, as well, IIRC.”

    From Wikipedia:

    UCIL was the Indian subsidiary of Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), with Indian Government controlled banks and the Indian public holding a 49.1 percent stake.

    Tim Newman

    “I attended a presentation once that said the parent company had tried several times to close the plant due to non-profitability, but local politicians and unions had intervened to prevent it because it employed lots of people. I could never find a source for this so I generally don-t repeat it, but if true then it is startlingly obvious where the blame lies for shoddy work practices which lead to the accident.”

    Well reading between the lines, it looks a little that way:

    In the early 1980s, the demand for pesticides had fallen, but production continued, leading to buildup of stores of unused MIC. … Factors leading to the magnitude of the gas leak mainly included problems such as; storing MIC in large tanks and filling beyond recommended levels, poor maintenance after the plant ceased MIC production at the end of 1984, failure of several safety systems due to poor maintenance, and safety systems being switched off to save money[] including the MIC tank refrigeration system which could have mitigated the disaster severity. The situation was worsened by the mushrooming of slums in the vicinity of the plant, non[]existent catastrophe plans, and shortcomings in health care and socio[]economic rehabilitation.

    But this was probably a bigger problem:

    The design of the MIC plant, following government guidelines, was [Indianized] by UCIL engineers to maximise the use of indigenous materials and products. Mumbai[]based Humphreys and Glasgow Consultants Pvt. Ltd., were the main consultants, Larsen [] Toubro fabricated the MIC storage tanks, and Taylor of India Ltd. provided the instrumentation

  13. The design of the MIC plant, following government guidelines, was [Indianized] by UCIL engineers to maximise the use of indigenous materials and products.

    This is a huge issue in most overseas industrial projects these days. Government regulations insist you use local engineers and materials, but accept no responsibility for any shortfall in quality or safety. Half the time it is members of the government who own the companies they insist you use. The result is very expensive industrial facilities which are a bag of shite. Little wonder accidents occur.

  14. You guys have got hold of the wrong end of the stick.

    Think how much money Primark will spend in the UK to employ the host of engineers, architects, Rock Mechanic engineers, Electrical Engineers, and Health and Safety practitioners to ensure that the building and infrastructure the locals use are Tsunami proof!

    And then we can use some gun boats to ensure the locals comply with the raft of standards and regulations that will accompany the order of a couple of thousand of miserable T-shirts.

    This will give a sure sign that Britain is open for trade!

  15. From what I understand, the rules and regs about construction were there, just not adhered to or enforced. Surely that responsibility lies within the country concerned, not their customers?

  16. The building in Bangladesh was owned by a socialist government official. No wonder they ignored the regulations.

  17. @ Tim Newman
    Flixborough was nothing to do with profitability. The company was jointly owned by the National Coal Board and Dutch State Mines. I knew some guys at ICI who had to struggle to believe what the Flixborough workers had done. In order to permit the explosion the public-spirited nationalised industries had committed not but one but seven safety breaches each one of which was a complete No- NO!! to the profit-oriented private sector company.
    Someone remind me – who owned Chernobyl and how many fatalities have we had from private sector nuclear reactors? Yeah – the Japanese guys who went into to clean up after an earthquake.

  18. Offshore Observer

    Do these people not realise that one of the reasons the west is so rich now is because of the industrial revolution where there was effectively no regulation of workplace health and saftey of labour. By having an almost completely unregulated industry Britain became the richest country in the world. It only lost that title to the United States who got rich by the same route.

    Sorry but if bangladesh don’t enforce thier own laws and allow these conditions to exist then that is effectively thier problem.

    Those working there probably took the rational choice to work in a sweatshop for 16 hours per day was probably a better deal than working in the fields growing rice and starving every couple of years when floods wiped out thier crops.

    All we will do by putting pressure on bangladesh to enforce thier own laws is move the sweatshops to a different country who can compete on cost.

    It is really simple all these lovely things that trustafarians insist upon (health and saftey, minimum wage etc etc) are great for countries that can afford it. For many other countries they simply want to be in a position to allow thier population to feed themselves.

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