Aftermath of an Industrial Calamity
The long road of industrial development is littered with the corpses of workers felled by the negligence of profiteers. In one of the deadliest accidents, 1,000 people died five years ago in the collapse of Rana Plaza garment factory accident in Bangladesh, victims of the now globalized race-to-the-bottom. Today, wages remain low and work intensity high, although garment workers unions are getting stronger. The most notable gain has been the improvement in building safety as a result of the 2013 Accord on Fire and Building Safety Standards in Bangladesh, negotiated by trade unions and garment companies. The Accord’s governing body has identified numerous safety violations and terminated 96 factories for failure to comply, while providing health and safety training and prompting basic precautions like fire exits. The Accord will be expanded this month, and, indeed, it has much work still to do confronting laggardly companies. But the message is clear: corporate social responsibility can’t be voluntary. Ultimately, it will take binding international agreements to rein in global corporations.