Recently, a Bangladeshi factory manufacturing LPP products was involved in one of modern history’s largest industrial catastrophes. On April 24, 2013, the Rana Plaza collapsed injuring nearly 2,000 and killing a total of 1,127 workers. Though originally designed as an office building, Rana Plaza was converted into a central facility serving five garment factories – all with heavy machinery. Cracks were spotted in the walls just one day before the catastrophe. However, local management assured employees that it was safe to enter the buildings and to continue working, despite the fact that other shops nearby had been evacuated. One of LPP’s brand labels, Cropp, was found among the remains of Rana Plaza following the rubble.
Valued around $20 billion, Bangladesh’s garment industry constitutes 77% of the country’s exports and is the strongest arm of its economy. Garment factories employ 40% of Bangladesh’s workforce. Factories often employ inadequate safety standards while state authorities rarely enforce legal requirements. Many employees work under deplorable conditions for the minimum wage, $38 a month. Safety issues pose a constant threat to Bangladeshi garment industry workers. Fires and machinery explosions claim scores of lives every year (e.g. the Tazreen garment factory fire in November 2012 killing 112 people). In the last 11 years (excluding the Rana Plaza collapse),poor safety standards accounted for 730 deaths.
Voluntary, non-legally binding initiatives attempting to improve garment factory safety standards arose from major tragedies in 2005 and 2010. However, the concerted efforts of community organizations and certain companies who chose to partially implement some of the new standards failed to bring about discernible improvements and ultimately failed in preventing the Rana Plaza disaster. After the Rana Plaza tragedy, over 80 clothing brands and retailers signed the “Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.” The Accord offers an opportunity for cooperation between community organizations, companies,and the government that could improve the current situation for many garment workers. LPP has yet (as of July 2013) to sign the Accord. LPP management has failed to claim any responsibility for the Rana Plaza victims or their families in terms of rehabilitation or compensation. The vice-chairman of LPP declared that he did not feel guilty for the Rana Plaza tragedy, and therefore did not feel there was a need to claim responsibility in the situation.
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