Garment-Factory Fire in Pakistan Kills 300 Trapped Behind Locked Doors

In the class, we just mentioned that the conditions under which our clothing were made significantly vary from country to country. Compared with the vidoes we watched yesterday, the story covered by the news is such a sharp contrast.

However, we may also want to think: despite the far-from pleasant working environment, why pepole in Pakistan are still willing to work there? As a consumer or professional in the US fashion apparel industry, what we can do to help improve the working conditions as shown in the picture? and what role can international trade play in helping developing countries like Pakistan to achieve economic development?

As reported by the New York Times article :

“Textiles are a major source of foreign currency for Pakistan, accounting for 7.4 percent of its gross domestic product in 2011 and employing 38 percent of the manufacturing work force. Pakistani cotton products are highly sought in neighboring India and form the backbone of a burgeoning fashion industry that caters to the elite. President Asif Ali Zardari’s government has often called on the United States to drop tariff barriers to Pakistani textile imports, which it says would be preferable to traditional aid.”

We will gradually touch these critical issues in the later part of the course. Stay tuned.

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Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

12 thoughts on “Garment-Factory Fire in Pakistan Kills 300 Trapped Behind Locked Doors”

  1. From preparing and discussing the first case study in class, I believe we introduced many different solutions for this devastating issue countries around the world face today. First, the people of Pakistan are willing to work in these awful conditions because they have to. Many of these workers have no others options for work and are forced to take what they can get just to survive. Second, the work needs to be done, and these factories are willing to hire anyone they can to work, even children. Believe it or not, many of these low paying factory jobs are difficult to find, and these people will take whatever they can get. As a consumer or professional in the US fashion apparel industry, we have the power to change these working conditions. Companies using these factories can join forces and initiate more frequent inspections in these factories and hold off doing business with unsafe factories until they pass inspection. Also, requiring approval before factories subcontract to smaller factories would also be necessary. This way, brands can ensure all contractors and subcontractors are implementing safe working conditions. As consumers, we could boycott products and brands which use unsafe factories for production. Overall, there are many solutions to this issue, but it all begins with consumers. Consumers must have a “want” for change for companies to be willing to go the extra mile to ensure safe working conditions. Unfortunately, without a hunger for change from consumers and companies, I believe these issues will remain.

    1. I totally agree!! But this is what left for you and me and even our future generations to solve/improve. I do hope when people think of “textile and apparel”, they will realize it is far more than just “fashion” or “celebrity”. Textile and apparel is about globalization, about development, about sustainbaility, about technology and about politics. This is why we are important and why this sector is critical to the world economy.

    2. It is tragic to hear another factory fire killing almost 300 poorly paid workers. This story is no different from the Bangladesh and most of the windows had bars. Most of the workers died from inhaling most and the rest from burning and others go injured from jumping from the fourth floor. It is obvious that factory owners in the third world countries do not care about the safety of their employees and their lives and effort is taken for granted. I believe that people in Pakistan are still willing to work in such conditions because they are no choice. Many of these people have a family that depending on them. To be able to prove for their families they will have to accept what give that is given to them even if they know they are be treated unfairly. t To prevent such accidents there have to be more regulations and procedures enforced to ensure the safety of the workers. The United Nations Department of Safety of Security (UNDSS) can also get involve. There are many way in which the U.S fashion industry can improve the working conditions for those unpaid people in countries such as Pakistan. The reality is many of U.S companies do not care about where their products are e fit. You can really blame them for having such mindset. The fashion industry is very fast past. Style is always changing. Retailers want their product fast and consumers want to have the latest style. In order for consumer to help improve the working conditions as shown in the picture, they will have to care enough. If consumers were more concern about were the clothes were made and the hands that made it, every purchase that they make, they will think twice before to spend a dime on a garment.

  2. These issues need to be much more publicized than they are. It is really upsetting to hear these stories because if Americans put up with poor labor conditions, these things would happen here. If this happened in the United States, it would become international news and be headlined on every news channel worldwide. Since it happened in Pakistan, I am only hearing of it now. The Pakistani government really needs to establish strict laws to help minimize these instances from occurring. If this doesn’t happen, the United States needs to set up strict laws about importing goods that were produced in poor working conditions. More and more, I have been reading the “Social Responsibility” section on many American apparel companies websites. I am very interested in hearing what they have to say about where and how their products are being produced. I appreciate adding this section onto their website.

  3. So, these kinds of accidents are possible in any kind of factory that manufacturers clothing, it just so happens that they are in developing countries and producing clothing for larger firms. The article states, “the industry suffers from weak regulation, characterized by lax oversight and corruption. Business owners often put profits over safety,” this sounds quite familiar to the other factory fires we have read about. The difference is that in China, workers would have to lie in an opinion given on whether business owners put profits over safety, but here in Pakistan the workers rights advocates are not afraid to reveal the truth. However, answers are still protected when asked why the doors are locked, how the fire started, and why inspectors are forbidden from entering factories. Once again, the factory was “dangerous, flimsily built and had no fire emergency exits.” How does this happen? Where does the corruption start and justice begin? If Pakistan is somewhat reliant on this industry, then why would they not put any effort into ensuring the safety and therefore the success of these factories? As an individual working in the American fashion apparel industry, I would be deeply disturbed that this keeps happening. Americans and other international fashion apparel firms should come together and question the Pakistani government. Real life citizens could write petitions against unsafe working conditions, which could be passed on to clothing manufacturers domestically, and then slowly make their way around the world. Innocent lives should not be lost over the value of business.

  4. Through our class discussions and case studies we have learned a lot about this topic. The conditions that our clothes are made really do vary from country to country. If our clothing is made here in the United States, they will be produced in very fair conditions. If our clothing is made in China, they are most likely produced in very hazardous and difficult working conditions. It seems as though it would be a really easy choice for consumers who support fair treatment of workers. But, it can be a lot more complicated than that. In America, we are currently going through a difficult recession. A lot of people are loosing their jobs for many different reasons, where they have children and people in their life to support. Regardless if people strongly disagree with the working conditions in Pakistan, if they lost their jobs they will want to purchase clothing at Wal-Mart or a place like it, where it is a lot cheaper. When people loose their jobs, it can seem like they have no choice but to shop where it is a lot cheaper. Something else that is interesting is that a lot of people who work at factories have lost their jobs due to outsourcing. But, they also shop at Wal-Mart and places like it because they are unemployed. The cycle then continues because they are supporting a business that outsourced to countries where conditions are horrible for workers.
    People in Pakistan still continue to work there because they really need a job to support themselves and their families. It is hard for Americans to understand how people could agree to these working conditions and continue to work there because we have a lot of rights being American citizens. But, times are tough in other countries and they take what they can get for work. To help with these conditions, we can try to boycott companies that produce their clothing in places like this as consumers. It seems difficult, but if a lot of people did it, it could make a difference. International Trade could make a difference by trying to make international laws about working conditions.

  5. This is just another example of the disconnect in the issues of the T&A industry. All focus is on the restructure of the globalized trade and production market but no money or focus is going into fixing the factories that are going to be used to make all of these agreements and manufacturing successful. Though it would be impossible to fix the low wage issue globally, it is possible to have an a consensus made on factory regulations and safety procedures that need to be upheld, or face the entire factory to shut down. This type of regulations needs to be overseen by an outside party from the factory owner or companies that use these factories to make sure they are being done or we will keep reading stories of these tragedy and the death toll will keep rising.

  6. It is sad that American apparel companies ignore the conditions that their clothing is manufactured in. It is hard to understand what the workers in the factory go through everyday. The fact that they don’t have much of an option to even work there is devastating to me. Never mind the fact that they were trapped inside behind locked doors. Given the tragic events that have been occurring, I think that American companies need to put a stop to this and create and follow correct working conditions.

  7. It is sad that we as US consumers do not care enough to think of the conditions our apparel products were made in. We do not look at where an item is made when we are shopping and if we were to it still would not go into detail of the conditions the garment was made under. The t-shirt I have on now might have been made by someone who died in this tragic accident. These workers work long tiring hours for little people under unhealthy working conditions. As a consumers we can make a significant difference by researching the conditions of many manufacturers in other countries and refusing to buy products from retailers who have a history of using manufacturers who operate in unhealthy working conditions. This will make an impact on the retailers decision to where they are manufacturing their products. International trade can help emerging economies like this one earn enough capital to build better working conditions.

  8. Pakistan is just one of many developing countries that has suffered from a garment factory incident in the past few years. The growth of globalization has created serious ethical issues concerning the working conditions of factories and their workers in developing countries around the world. The simple reason for why people in developing countries are willing to work for low wages is that there is an overall lower standard of living. People in the United States and Europe enjoy the luxuries of life, like what car they drive or how big their house is. However, people in countries like Pakistan are satisfied if they have food and a place to live. When standards of living are low, people are willing to work for any money they can get. Globalization has been very beneficial to developed countries like the U.S., because we can import goods for less. However, after incidents such as this, companies that were outsourcing in the U.S. have to take responsibility for the damage that was done and the lives that were lost. The textile industry produces a lot of income for Pakistan’s economy, so raising tariffs could threaten the jobs of thousands of workers and take away from their GDP. Instead, Pakistan must improve the environmental standards and labor laws enforced within their factories. In addition, companies in the U.S. who are producing their goods in factories outside the country must monitor the working conditions more closely. Regulations regarding these factories in developing countries must have serious consequences if not followed.

    1. The other thing came to my mind the other day when I post the blog about the EU GSP case is that the international community should take full advantage of the apparel sector as a leverage to improve the human right conditions in these developing countries. Just like economic sanctions, corporate social responsibility should be required as a pre-condition for more favorable market access preferences. Because apparel exporting play such an important role in these developing countries’ overall economy, the local government has good reasons to improve the situation. Again, this is a very complicated case, but I hope in our joint efforts, we can gradually make things moving forward.

  9. I believe people in Pakistan are willing to work under such conditions purely because they have to. There are not as many opportunities for work in a war stricken, developing country. I think people will do whatever it is that they have to do in order to survive and if that means working in a factory for below minimum wage and under harsh conditions, they will. As we saw with our case study on the Bangladesh factory fire the well being of workers is not the factory’s main concern, making money is. I think as a class we came up with a lot of good ideas about what can be done to help people working under these conditions. There needs to be more structure and consequence to the way factory workers are being treated. If there were more media coverage to what was really happening I think it would cause the US and other countries to really think about stepping in and helping. Textile and apparel companies should be more aware of where their products are being made. Even if they outsource, I think these companies should treat the factories like their own workers. They should be regulating working conditions and investing their time and money into the factories if they want to use them.

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