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In Bangladesh, garment workers still fear for their safety

Bangladeshi civilian volunteers assist in rescue operations after an eight-story building collapsed in Savar, on the outskirts of Dhaka, on April 24, 2013.

Four months on from a factory collapse in Bangladesh, that killed more than 1,100 textile workers, fears remain about safety standards in the country's $21 billion clothing industry.

The collapse of the Rana Plaza factory has generated fierce debate about what changes should be made, along with pledges from employers and global retailers like Walmart to improve worker rights and safety.

Bangladesh's parliament passed a labor law with new amendments on July 15, but the International Labour Organization (ILO) and various rights groups, say that, despite some improvements, it falls short on key issues.

Kalpona Akter, from labor rights group the Bangladesh Centre for Workers' Solidarity, says workers are taking matters into their own hands.

"Whenever they see a spark or a crack in the building, they are saying this is not a safe working place," she says. "They walk out from the factory, and they tell their factory owners or management that until you make it safe, we will not come back."

About the author

Mahfuz Sadique is a reporter with the BBC.
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Well, we need to blame someone or some entity, we always need to do that. There's plenty of blame to go around. The factory owners in Bagladesh. Then there's the cruel Walmart executives who force the factory owners to hurry up and build, equip and manufacture products quickly and inexpensively so they can sell them cheap in the US. There's the US government that has a high corporate tax rate (35%) which some claim is the reason why the Walmart's of the world have their goods manufactured in other countries. And let's not forget the American people, the huge retail market that insists on cheap products and actually enables these things to happen in the first place.

Casualties are many and widespread, the wokers in those factories who are working in substandard conditions even when the roof doesn't cave in and kill 1,100 people like in Bangladesh. They are not paid a living wage, but they take the work because there isn't any other work. The environment usually suffers because of non-existent environmental regulations in other countries. The American tax payer has to pay more in taxes because the multi-national corporations doing business in other countries don't have to pay US taxes. for the most part. And there are hardly any manufacturing jobs left in the US because they are mostly all off-shore.

So we have a system that depletes American jobs, and creates an economy in which people are forced to seek out cheap goods because wages are down, and consumer expenses are all rising. The energy consumed during the product transport from other countries to the US contributes to the demand for oil and in some ways to the price of oil. The price of oil in the economy effects the cost of all goods and sevices because of oil's use as a major energy supply.

What we the people need to start doing, is to look in the mirror to see one of the people to blame. We need to wake up to the reality that our own way of living and interacting in the world is contributing to many of its problems. We have to stop blaming someone or something other than ourselves. We need to take responsibility for ourselves, and find a way to help make the needed changes.

There are soltuions to many of the seemingly monumental problems facing the world today. The first step is for the American people to wake up and pay attention to the world around them. Become aware of how we all contribute to the problems and take steps to stop contributing to the problems and start contributing to the solutions.

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