Scrutiny of working conditions in Asia continues to mount as the latest in a string of disasters now includes a fire at a Chinese poultry processing plan that killed at least 120 people. The region has become infamous for its cheap labor and working conditions which are often deplorable, if not deadly.
An April 24 textile factory collapse in Bangladesh killed more than 1,120 people. In November 2012, 117 people died and more than 200 were injured when a fire ripped through a clothing factory in the same country. Both facilities were suppliers to major North American and European companies.
The Chinese plant was a major domestic poultry supplier, according to state news reports, and the “people responsible” in the company have been arrested. It is not yet clear what caused the fire or explosions.
The IndustriALL Global Union, which appointed IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger Vice President at its founding congress in 2012, and the UNI Global Union have been facilitating an agreement between Asian manufacturers and Western companies that use their labor. Many major companies have signed onto the accord, but Wal-Mart and The Gap have refused to participate.
“Wal-Mart and Gap are revisiting the errors of the past,” said UNI General-Secretary Philip Jennings. “They are out of step with the public mood. They are ignoring shoppers and letting down Bangladeshi garment workers. Wal-Mart and Gap are blind to the new retail reality that shoppers will not tolerate inhumane factory conditions. How high does the body count have to go for them to do the right thing?”
Click here to see a list of companies that have signed the agreement.