Published: Monday, April 29, 2013

Editorial

How cheap is cheap?

Safety discarded while cutting corners

THAT many of the RMG producers have been cutting corners to manufacture ‘cheap’ and ‘competitive’ goods have been exposed from time to time in the last several years. It has shown through the several RMG factory disasters costing many lives. The latest man made disaster and death of nearly four hundred people in Savar, exposes the callous disregard for human lives on the part of some petty entrepreneurs strutted by party and political patronisation and motivated by unmitigated greed to make a quick buck.

We note, and we hope the government as well as the RMG owners and their association the BGMEA do too, the fact that the consumers are at last starting to acknowledge that in buying so called cheap stuff they are in fact becoming a party to deaths in garment factory disasters that are taking place in Bangladesh.

We too feel that the retailers of our RMG products in the USA and Europe cannot shirk their part of responsibility in the deaths due primarily to lack of appropriate working conditions and lax safety arrangements. For example, a year and a half before the Tazreen factory fire, the Wal-Mart shareholders had rejected by 50-1 vote a proposal that required the suppliers to report annually on the safety measures of their factories on the grounds that it would ultimately lead to consumers paying higher cost for the product. And some of the buyers have held their retailers squarely responsible for the deaths in Savar.

It is unfortunate that the Bangladeshi RMG manufacturers have convoluted the idea of ‘competitive’ and ‘cheap’. And while the producers have been trying to be so, it is the workers that have been bearing the brunt of this in terms of poor wages and through their lives. The retailers have taken the manufacturers for a ride while the manufactures have done the same to the workers.

We would hope that the RMG factory owners would understand that producing competitive goods does not mean sacrificing the interest and the safety of the workers. It is time to stop cutting corners and to come out of the hold of a captive market and demand appropriate prices for our products.