UK suppliers and sourcing experts have hailed the “vast improvements” made across the garment industry in Bangladesh two years on from the Rana Plaza disaster.
Positive steps such as increased wages and the introduction of more factory inspections have improved the safety and living standards of staff producing clothing for UK retailers, yet the industry is still competitive, according to those Drapers spoke to this week.
April 24 marked the second anniversary of the 2013 tragedy, when the eight-storey building in Dhaka collapsed killing 1,134 workers and injuring 2,378.
One clothing supplier selling to a major UK department store chain, who uses a factory in Bangladesh, said: “Working conditions are a lot better and people pay a lot more attention to ethical audits than they did before.
“People are behaving themselves and the country is showing strides in the right direction, which is what UK brands wanted to see. Pay for workers has rightly gone up, but it’s still competitive to manufacture in Bangladesh in comparison to other places.”
In November 2013 the minimum wage for garment workers in the country increased 76% from 3,000 Bangladeshi taka (£25.98) per month to 5,300 (£45.89).
Mike Flanagan, chief executive of garment sourcing consultancy Clothesource in Charlbury, Oxfordshire, said: “The quality of life for most workers has been improved by things like raising wages without Bangladesh losing market share or anyone pulling out.
“This is crucial because the industry employs around 4 million people and there’s no alternative for them.”
The government of Bangladesh launched an industry-wide inspection of around 4,500 factories, which continues today. The country’s labour law was also amended to include the right of workers to form trade unions.
Flanagan highlighted the improved safety: “There has scarcely been a major incident in the past two years. The inspection of factories isn’t finished yet, but so far only a handful have been shut.”
As of April 17, the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund had received $24m (£16m), £4m short of the $30m (£20m) target set by professional services group PwC.
A PwC report published on April xx claims around a dozen firms linked to the factory are yet to pay into the fund.
[CUT FOR MAG] Since May 2013, a number of UK retailers including Arcadia, John Lewis and Marks & Spencer have signed the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh agreement, pledging to work towards a safe ready-made garment industry.
[CUT FOR MAG] On April 17 Italian fashion group Benetton contributed $1.1m (£736,000) to the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund, double the $550,000 (£368,000) recommended by PwC.