While some of us were wrapped up with New York Fashion Week, two fugitive owners of the Tazreen garment factory in Bangladesh—where 112 workers died in November of 2012 when they were trapped by a fire—turned themselves in to authorities on Sunday. The Guardian reports:
Witnesses said several hundred people gathered at the court and chanted for the pair to be given the death penalty. If convicted, they could face life in prison. In all, 13 people were charged in connection with the disaster, a rare step in a country where critics complain that powerful garment industry bosses often go unpunished for factory accidents. The charges included breaching construction rules, such as the failure to provide two emergency exits.
All of this is in the wake, of course, of the horrific Rana Plaza collapse that killed 1,130 workers last April. Now that international eyes are opening up to workers’ rights in the developing world, fashion brands have started to work with international workers’ rights organizations and the Bangladeshi government to attempt to compensate victims’ families and establish safety accords to avoid similar tragedies.
No doubt, the problems are overwhelming and the red tape is nightmarish—the website Quartz did a great job breaking down one of the safety plans here—but, I guess, baby steps. (If you’re interested in working in fashion, and being part of the solution, I wrote about that for Medium.) Bangladesh’s minimum wage was raised in December, though many note that (like here in America) it’s still far from a living wage. It’s good news that factory owners are being held accountable. As consumers, we have to hold ourselves accountable too—to pay attention to the people who make up the supply chains we support.