Bangladesh disaster exposes High Street profits

28 April 2013

The disaster in Bangladesh, where over 300 people died when a garment factory bangladesh garment factorycollapsed, has its roots in the drive for super profits on the High Streets of Europe and America.

The 324 people died needlessly after factory bosses forced people to work in the building after the police had ordered it evacuated after cracks had been found in the structure. So far 4 bosses have been arrested. Thousands of workers protested on Friday, and were fired on by police with tear gas and rubber bullets.

The FT reported on Thursday that the garment industry in Bangladesh is worth $19bn. “The industry has used its influence to help keep the pay for Bangladesh’s 3.6m garment workers at the lowest level in the world, even after wages were doubled in 2010, and to constrain the space for trade unions to operate.”

War on Want has identified 3 companies directly linked to the disaster – Primark, Matalan and Mango.

With a quick check we found that Primark recently declared a profit of £2bn. In 2011 Matalan declared 3 monthly profits of £13.6m and in 2011 Mango declared profits of 63m Euros.

Primark is not only profiting from the suffering in Bangladesh. It is a minimum wage employer in Britain.

Primark boasts about its commitment to Ethical Trading, and its role in improving the situation in Bangladesh – see Primark Ethical Trading – yet it appears that building integrity had been considered as part of any health and safety review “Primark has been engaged for several years with NGOs and other retailers to review Bangladeshi industry’s approach to factory standards. Primark will push for this review to also include building integrity.

Primark is the retail arm of Associated British Foods, a multi million pound international corporation. Its executive directors, George Weston and John Baston, are raking in the cash:

George Weston – £918,000 basic salary plus £864,000 bonus, plus massive share options

John Baston – £597,000 basic salary plus £580,000 bonus, plus massive share options

While we mourn the loss of life in Bangladesh, we need to send solidarity to those fighting for union rights in the garment industry in Bangladesh, and fight for decent wages and conditions for workers in the garment and retail industry in this country.

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