An interesting claim

Bangladeshi building regs are shite.

This is Primark\’s fault.

39 thoughts on “An interesting claim”

  1. So Much For Subtlety

    The Tellie-s claims are worse than that really.

    The Bangladeshi government has publicly acknowledged that perhaps 90 per cent of Dhaka-s high-rise buildings do not meet local construction standards, let alone international rules.

    So the Bangladeshi government is corrupt and incompetent? This is Primark’s fault apparently.

    But can Primark and Bonmarche fairly be held accountable for working conditions in their supply chain?

    That the Tellie is stupid enough to even ask this question is a statement of the decline of standards in British education and common sense despite the Thatcher Years. Truly the last of the Institutions are falling to the Gramscian march therethrough.

    If you are going to make money by selling products on the high street, you have an obligation to ensure a basic minimum of decency in the conditions in which they are produced. That was recognised as long ago as 1802, when the first Factory Act was passed limiting the hours that British women and children could work.

    I utterly fail to see how that follows. The British government did not state that the Victorian equivalents of Primark had any obligation to enforce the Factory Acts. They said the British government did. Apples and chalk.

    These women live far away, but they are equally worthy of a sense of obligation.

    No they are not. They are not British. They will not pay for my hospitalisation if I have a heart attack. They probably celebrated 9-11. Their governments have certainly voted against us in the UN on numerous occasions. They stand outside our community. We owe them nothing.

    Some Bangladeshi women have now died as they sat in a collapsing building making cheap clothes for British shops.

    So what? Is the quality of buildings going to improve if we impoverish Bangladesh some more? If Primark withdraws, how does that help? A weaker economy means cheaper buildings.

    Some of their children are also dead. Might that have anything to do with the []1.50 T-shirt worn by your child?

    No. Don-t be stupid.

    If Primark and Bonmarche are responsible for the conditions in which their goods are produced, then so are we.

    If. Again that the Tellie could publish such tripe is a sign of the impending apocalypse.

    There is, however, one step that could be taken. Last year, the US owner of Calvin Klein and a German retailer signed the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement, providing for the independent inspection of every factory used by a supplier.

    Ahh, we should give the campaigners some of our money so they can swan about the Third World pretending to be useful? It all makes sense now. Given the corruption of the Third World how is this going to make any difference? Given the company-s engineers said the building was fine, how are some Tabithas with PPE degrees going to gainsay them?

  2. On Newsnight last night a Labour MP seemed to suggest that the UK government should have a role in setting building regs and employment law in Bangladesh.

  3. As UK building regs seem to be more rigorous than, certainly, anywhere I’ve ever operated – looks like us Brits are jointly responsible for every building problem on the planet.

  4. A one-off pay rise for garment workers improves the structural integrity of buildings?

    In Fairyland, maybe, but not methinks in Bangladesh.

  5. Going against all economic sense, I would probably shop at a store which sold its pants for a fiver, as opposed to one that sold them for three quid, if the store selling them for a fiver could prove its workers were getting the extra two quid (or large part thereof) in better pay and conditions.

    I know this would be first world indulgence on my part, and is only possible because I can afford the five quid pants, but I suppose raising living standards for some people in Bangla could have other benefits for me than mere smugness.

    I’m not bothered enough to find out for myself if any already do this, I must admit.

    Somwe entrepreneur is going to do this soon anyway.

    Look at us – our factory conditions are monitored by the UN, there are 24/7 webcams everywhere (with worker consent of course), the workers get four weeks free hols and a subsidised canteen, we run a adopt-a-worker scheme for people from Islington, and you still get your kecks for a fiver.

    They’ll still make a fucking killing.

    The Telegraph has gone mad, of course.

  6. So Much For Subtlety

    Interested – “Look at us [] our factory conditions are monitored by the UN, there are 24[]7 webcams everywhere (with worker consent of course), the workers get four weeks free hols and a subsidised canteen, we run a adopt-a-worker scheme for people from Islington, and you still get your kecks for a fiver.”

    What happens when you pay your workers so much more than the going market rate? There will be a queue of workers outside hoping to get a job I would expect. How are you going to select among them?

    Well we have a model here. The entertainment industry is modest in its demands for workers but generous in its payments. How do you get a job as a young and pretty actress? Or an actor for that matter? Presumably the factory foreman will also be in a position to demand a blow job.

    How is this helping anyone?

  7. I’m going to run the factory and get the blow jobs, dummy!

    Tim adds: This was actually done in the US. Company that proudly proclaimed, made in America etc etc. LA it was based in. Job interviews were those blow jobs.

  8. But seriously, are you suggesting that companies can’t and shouldn’t attract workers by paying better rates, or that companies couldn’t make ‘our workers are better paid and happier’ a USP over here? That’s a bit bizarre, to me.

    I don’t think the Bangladeshi garment industry is analogous to Hollywood; I think what would probably happen, rather than me getting blown five times a day, is other firms would eventually pay better, and the three pound pants would disappear – or they would stay but firms would go to automation etc.

    In which case, you’d then have two USPs – our pants cost three pounds, and our pants cost five pounds but are made by people.

    Just off the top of my head mind, I’m on a coffee break.

  9. So Much For Subtlety

    Interested – “I-m going to run the factory and get the blow jobs, dummy!”

    Well I suppose Konnie Huq-s family did come from Bangladesh ….. So let me know if you need a co-investor!!

  10. Interested: “…but I suppose raising living standards for some people in Bangla could have other benefits for me than mere smugness.”

    Really? Gosh. I’d have thought you’d have been more than happy to settle for that…

  11. Between this and the Tesco horse meat story, supply chain issues appear to be gaining importance. McDonalds was able to keep its meat horse-free by exercising tight control over its supply chain. To placate its customers, Primark may want to do the same.Whether that requires it to sign up to a self-proclaimed Bangladeshi Fire & Safety Inspection Board is up to Primark.

    There’s a hint of free market beauty in there: presumably Primark has a choice of which building inspectors it chooses to employ in Bangladesh, whereas in the UK we’re stuck with the bloke from the local council.

  12. But seriously, are you suggesting that companies can’t and shouldn’t attract workers by paying better rates…

    To a point. In Nigeria, the local oil and gas workers and management are exceptionally well paid, even by international standard (yes, the local engineers get paid more than me, an expat manager). This is largely due to the powerful oilfield unions driving up the salaries and benefits through threats of strikes and other disruption which border on extortion. All well and good for the oilfield workers.

    The problem is, oilfield work is pretty much the only game in town (or in country, in Nigeria’s case) which pays well, everyone else works for peanuts. So inequality is rife: a handful of people lucky enough to have secured oilfield work help themselves to the benefits of the oil, which should be shared by the entire country. Meanwhile, 98% of the country has fuck all. The result is serious social discontentment in the country, kidnapping of oilfield workers is rife, corruption reigns supreme (coveted oilfield positions are sold, or reserved for family members), and the whole place is an unstable powder keg.

    If the textile industry in Bangladesh starts paying miles over the market rate, Bangladeshi society will become divided between those who are “in” and those who are “out”. The textile manufacturers will then become targets for all sorts of social malcontents, extortioners, and corrupt practices.

    You really don’t want one industry employing a minority of people on exceptional wages in any country.

  13. Question: what’s the average life of a garment worker in Bangladesh compared to a farmer?

    Having read a little on the conditions in the GWR factory in the 19th century, they were pretty dangerous too, but it didn’t stop people flocking from the fields of Wanborough and Ashbury to work there.

    The problem with nice, middle class folk is that they have no fucking appreciation of the choices of others, and seek to impose their own standards upon them, regardless of whether those people would choose otherwise.

  14. Sorry, that last sentence should say :

    “You really don’t want one dominant industry employing a minority of people on exceptional wages in any country.”

  15. So Much For Subtlety

    Interested – “But seriously, are you suggesting that companies can-t and shouldn-t attract workers by paying better rates, or that companies couldn-t make [our workers are better paid and happier] a USP over here? That-s a bit bizarre, to me.”

    They should but only if they need to. Because if they pay more than the market will bear, that just means more unemployment elsewhere. Otherwise why not legislate everyone has to pay workers a million quid a year?

    I am sure it will make a good USP. It works nicely for Fair Trade coffee for instance. But I doubt it is good for many people in the long run. As with Fair Trade coffee.

    “I think what would probably happen, rather than me getting blown five times a day, is other firms would eventually pay better, and the three pound pants would disappear”

    Then you will have a pool of unemployed in Bangladesh. You increase the costs of employing people and fewer people are employed. Not sure that will help them. Markets clear. Mess with the market and it may not.

  16. @Tim Newman

    Yes, I take your point Tim, but there are obvious differences between Nigerian oil and Bangla textiles. For starters, textiles only employ 3.5 million people out of a working pop of around 80 mil, 90 per cent of them women.

    @Tim Almond

    Yes, I agree,but I would also argue that there is a world of difference between GWR workers in a mainly home market in England 150 years ago, and Bangladeshi garment workers working largely for export now.

    Had a GWR factory collapsed and killed 150 at a stroke, and had it then been revealed that lots of GWR factories were unsafe, I think GWR would have been shut down or forced rapidly to change by a combination of passengers, freight customers, workers, the press, Parliament, the churches and the stock market.

    I don’t see a lot of that pressure in corrupt, divided, largely illiterate Bangladesh, where locals can have next to no influence via a boycott. Eventually, it will arrive but I think a lot, lot slower.

    @SMFS

    >They should but only if they need to. Because if they pay more than the market will bear, that just means more unemployment elsewhere.<

    I wasn't talking about forcing anyone to do anything, much less legislating? If some billionaire decides he wants to pay better and brag about it, this isn't messing with the market, this is the market in action, surely?

    There's always more unempoloyment elsewhere. The success of the Bangla textile industry has closed 40% of Pakistani textile mills in recent years.

  17. Mind you, re GWR, the mines carried on unsafely for a long time. Though the issues there were more technical and natural, rather than rapacious landlords building substandard factories.

    For a more comparable example – garment industry, crap building – see The Triangle Shirtwaist disaster in the USA, and look at the instant effect.

    http://history1900s.about.com/od/1910s/p/trianglefire.htm

  18. hmmm…..word press ate my comment.

    Tim “You really don’t want one industry employing a minority of people on exceptional wages in any country.”

    Quite. Even in Australia there is tension between the money miners earn compared to the average

  19. Syure, and in the UK we’ve had that via the north sea, and also we get it in the north with the public sector.

    As a matter of interest, Tim and David what is the solution to that problem? Is there one, where private sector crowds out, outside legislation?

  20. As a matter of interest, Tim and David what is the solution to that problem?

    I have no idea, short of making damned sure that I was one of the minority making money. 🙂

  21. @Tim Almond: did you read Alfred Williams Life in a Railway Factory? I drive past his house in South Marston nearly everyday.

  22. Interested,

    My point is that people have choices, and risk is factored into choices. Whether you have regulations or not, and whether they are enforced or not, ultimately people decide based on risks.

  23. [email protected]

    Another, British, example would be the Tay Bridge disaster which ruined the reputation of Sir Thomas Bouch and may have hastened his death.
    There were a number of railway accidents in the nineteenth century that caused public disquiet and helped to bring about better working practices.

    Nice to see some people here who have read Alfred Williams.

  24. So Much for Subtlety

    Interested – “I wasn-t talking about forcing anyone to do anything, much less legislating?”

    I am not sure I accused of talking about forcing anyone to pay higher wages.

    “If some billionaire decides he wants to pay better and brag about it, this isn-t messing with the market, this is the market in action, surely?”

    Probably. But it will have an effect somewhere and probably where you least expect it. In general I am all for parting fools and their money so if people want to pay more for higher wages, I am in favour. But it will have some other impact – probably blow jobs for the foreman.

  25. I added a rather facetious comment to Blair’s “Whither Primark?” nonsense to the effect that if the saving to Western consumers from cheap strides outweighs the number of QALYs lost times the value of a Bangladeshi QALY then we’ve come out ahead. It’s no less fatuous than the piece itself.

  26. Yes, I take your point Tim, but there are obvious differences between Nigerian oil and Bangla textiles. For starters, textiles only employ 3.5 million people out of a working pop of around 80 mil, 90 per cent of them women.

    The Nigerian oil business only employs a few 100k people in a population of 180m. I don’t know what the working population is, but even assuming it’s half of that, and the number of people indirectly working for the Nigerian oil business generously said to be 1m, we have a similar situation in terms of numbers.

    My point was that should textile companies start to ramp up the salaries and benefits too much beyond market rates, the textile industry will dominate the economy. Good for those 3.5m people working in it, but what about the rest?

  27. @So much for subtlety, here’s a slightly strained analogy. When you eat meat, it’s none of your business how the animal was treated during its short life, is it? All this nonsense about animal rights. I mean, who the eff really cares? Okay, we’re agreed on that, right? Now Bangladeshis are nasty brown-skinned people who don’t even speak English. They don’t even deserve the same rights as animals, do they? So who the eff really cares? It’s not racism, it’s merely pragmatism. By Jingo!

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