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The high cost in lives of cheap fashion

There are now more than 275 people confirmed dead and an estimated 1,000 people injured from the garment factory building that collapsed in Bangladesh. Among the clothing produced in that building – items for the Canadian retailer Loblaw’s Joe Fresh clothing line. According to The Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, 80 per cent of the workers in the factory were women aged 18-20. Wages in garment factories in Bangladesh range from 14 to 24 cents an hour.

The Associated Press reports, “Among the (other) textile businesses in the building were Phantom Apparels Ltd., New Wave Style Ltd., New Wave Bottoms Ltd. and New Wave Brothers Ltd., which make clothing for major brands including The Children’s Place, Dress Barn, and Primark (which is owned by an arm of the Weston family). …Kevin Gardner, a spokesman at Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., the second-largest clothing producer in Bangladesh, said the company is investigating to see if a factory in the building was currently producing for the chain.”

“Abdul Halim, an official with the engineering department in the Dhaka suburb of Savar, said the owner was originally allowed to construct a five-story building but he added another three stories illegally. …Habibur Rahman, police superintendent of Dhaka district, identified the owner as Mohammed Sohel Rana, a local leader of ruling Awami League’s youth front. Rahman said police were also looking for the owners of the garment factories.”

“The disaster came less than five months after a factory fire killed 112 people and underscored the unsafe conditions in Bangladesh’s massive garment industry. …The country has about 4,000 garment factories and exports clothes to leading Western retailers.”

To hear Jian Ghomeshi’s interview with Lucy Siege, author of To Die For, a book that critiques the ‘very cheap, highly trendy’ fashion industry, go here. For a compelling interview with Fatema Khatun Munni, a survivor of the tragedy in Bangladesh, that was broadcast last night on CBC Radio’s As It Happens.