The personal cost of the garment industry


Last spring the world was stunned to witness the panic and death as a Bangladesh building full of factories collapsed into a killing field. And the move to compensate injured workers and the families of the dead has not been quick. Today, as compensation talks begin in Geneva our Project Money looks at the personal cost of the garment industry's irresistible pull.

While Bangladeshi rescuers were able to save 2,500 people, the story of the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Dhaka this spring is not about surviving.

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Nazneen Akter Nazma with a photo of her husband
who was killed in the Rana Plaza collapse.
(Nusrat Amin/ActionAid)

It's thought to be the deadliest garment factory disaster -- ever. More than 1,100 people were killed, hundreds were seriously injured.

This week, representatives of the retailers who had clothes manufactured in the building meet to discuss compensation for the victims.

Today, as part of our Project Money, we look at the aftermath of this tragedy -- one where money played a role at so many levels... greed for profits, consumers wanting cheap clothes, workers threatened they wouldn't get paid if they didn't enter the building that day. And now it all culminates in a fight for compensation.

Nazneen Akter Nazma and her husband worked in factories in the Rana Plaza building. She survived - he did not. We reached Nazneen at her home in Dhaka earlier this week.

The charity Action Aid Bangladesh has attempted to identify victims who are most in need and help them out financially until the retailers work out a compensation package. It identified Nazneen as someone in particular distress since she's about to have a child.

Action Aid Bangladesh tells us Nazneen has now received the equivalent of about $1300 dollars to help meet her immediate needs.

"On that day the workers didn't want to go to work. They told us if you do not go to work than you will not get paid. So they forced us to go inside even though we protested. The owner assured us that everything was fine and nothing will happen".

Nazneen Akter Nazma, garment worker in Rana Plaza building

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Nazneen Akter Nazma with her siblings and mother-in-law. (Nusrat Amin/ActionAid)

Bob Jeffcott is a long-time activist and a co-founder of the Canadian anti-sweat shop group Maquila Solidarity Network. He says there has been some progress to improve conditions in garment factories but there is still so much to do.

We invited Loblaw to speak to us, but no one was available. Loblaw is the only Canadian company associated with a factory in the Rana Plaza that collapsed and has confirmed it is participating in this week's talks.

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This segment was produced by The Current's Sujata Berry.

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