Bangladesh tragedy down to West's cost squeeze: NGOs

LONDON - Major western clothing retailers squeezing Asian suppliers and a flawed approach to ensuring even basic working standards are fuelling conditions for tragedies like the latest factory collapse in Bangladesh, NGOs said on Thursday.

At least 187, mainly female workers, were killed and over 1,000 injured when the eight-storey Rana Plaza factory building in Savar, 30 kilometres (20 miles) outside the capital Dhaka, collapsed on Wednesday.

"What we're saying is that bargain-basement (clothing) is automatically leading towards these types of disasters," John Hilary, executive director at British charity War on Want, told Reuters.

He said western clothing retailers' desire to undercut rivals has translated into increasing pressure on foreign suppliers to reduce costs.

"If you've got that, then it's absolutely clear that you're not going to be able to have the right kind of building regulations, health and safety, fire safety. Those things will become more and more impossible as the cost price goes down."

Hilary said the push for lower costs inevitably led to factories cutting corners: "As a result of that, we see the sort of disaster that happened yesterday."

War on Want and its partner in Bangladesh, the National Garment Workers' Federation, called on major international buyers to be held to account.

"This negligence must stop. The deaths of these workers could have been avoided if multinational corporations, governments and factory owners took workers' protection seriously," NGWF president, Amirul Haque Amin, said in a statement.

Gareth Price-Jones, Bangladesh country director of British charity Oxfam, said western companies had not done enough.

"Western buyers could be doing much, much more, and they have a moral responsibility to do so," he told Reuters. "Western buyers really need to press for decent wages and safe working conditions."

He said Bangladeshi building regulations were not robust enough for construction in an earthquake zone and were, in any case, frequently ignored.

Garment workers trapped under rubble of collapsed Bangladesh building
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