Mixed response from Australian companies to Bangladesh disaster

After nearly a year since the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, there has been a mixed response from Australian textile companies.

Crikey reports that though no Australian company made clothes at Rana Plaza, where the disaster killed over 1,100 workers, many source from Bangladesh, which makes 80 per cent of its export revenue from garments.

The collapse in April last year was the worst industrial accident since the Union Carbide Bhopal disaster in India.

Unions and activists are pushing for Western companies to compensate victims (and victims’ families) and are aiming to raise $US 40 million through the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund, established in January this year.

Kmart has donated to the CRP-Bangladesh charity, but no Australian company has contributed to the donor fund. Nearly all Australian companies have signed the Bangladesh Safety Accord, but have no plans to stop using Bangladesh’s factories. Just Group and Best and Less have not signed the Accord, according to Crikey.

Cotton On is one of the signatories to the Accord, which will inspect around 1,500 factories in the country by September.

The company’s senior communications manager Greer McCracken said that the factory disaster was “a really big catalyst for change in the industry.”

The company, like Target, Kmart and Big W, employs staff in Bangladesh to inspect factory sites for safety. McCracken said there were limits to what the company could do to improve the situation in Bangladesh, though was running a healthcare van for employees and their children and was “considering a mobile schooling initiative,” she told Crikey.

Consumers were more discriminating than they had been in the past, and often made their point through social media.

“They are far more savvy than they were five years ago or probably even 18 months ago,” she said.


Image: demotix.com