Fernando Jiménez

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What conclusion should we made from the deadly collapse of a factory in Bangladesh?

I used to ear that we live on a global world, that all of us are interconnected, but this connections are not two-ways, the first world it´s just interested in one-way, rejecting the other.

What kind of controls do we have about the labor condictions of the people who woks for us in the third world?

What the ONU do about that?

Does the market punish companies that abuse of poor people?

  • May 16 2013: Fernando,
    as it so happens, the tragedy in Bangladesh hit close to home for me.
    I used to work for a big company that had its clothing produced in this factory. While I worked there, I was confronted by the appalling conditions in which these people worked (and other factories around the world). When I considered how well taken care of I was, as a member of the EU with all the benefits and privileges that came with it, it upset me even more. The longer I worked there, the more disgusted I became with the whole thing, and finally, I left the company.

    When I heard about the disaster in Bangladesh, a part of me was horrified, and another part of me was actually not surprised at all. I knew about these horrible conditions. It wasn't the first time something like this has happened, and I fear, it won't be the last.

    It is a complicated problem!

    As soon as suppliers invest more money in the improvement of working conditions, or even minimum safety requirements, the prices of their garments go up in order to cover the costs. The problem then, is that companies like the one I worked for will have their garments made elsewhere, where the conditions are still poor (read: dangerous), but where the prices are still 'dirt cheap' and they can assure themselves of a gigantic profit.

    The profit has to be enormous, otherwise it's just not worth it. When my department was told that our designs had made a profit of 'only' 5 million that year, we were told that we had failed. Truly shocking. Any lawsuit the company had going (believe me, there were several at a time), they won with ease because they had the money to hire the best lawyers.

    So, where does the solution lie?
    I feel, it lies with the consumer. If consumers are willing to pay a bit more, then the problem is more or less on its way to being solved. Sadly, people are just as concerned about money, and want the most for the least amount.
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      May 16 2013: Good thoughts!
      But I am not sure that if consumer are willing to pay more will ensure minimum safety level for the poor works or a bit higher wage to poor worker.
      That extra money from consumer I feel will only fatten the profit margin of either the global garment giants or local manufacturers.
      Sorry , if I sound too pessimistic but that's what my observation with our current market model.
      Thanks for your thoughts and action.
      • May 16 2013: Salim,
        I don't think your view is pessimistic, in fact, I agree... it would be 'too easy' for the corrupt hands to simply pocket that money...
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        May 16 2013: I think your point is valid, Salim. I do think consumers would be willing to pay more, but it is unclear whether the extra would ever make it down to worker safety or simply enter the pocket of the person running the factory- who had been warned by local authorities of the need to make the building safer. It just wasn't enforced.

        My eldest child is in her mid-twenties and told me a few days ago that she had read that paying ten cents more per item would cover the costs of the building safety measures that were at issue.
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          May 17 2013: Fritzie, the great awareness of your daughter , this discussion here etc, may not be statistically significant to draw so called valid conclusion about consumer desires to any market researcher , but to me it's a clear indication about consumer desire , which is a good news .

          Couple years back in a meeting , one of my European Colleagues as knew , I am from Bangladesh , came to me to be introduced. After small chat he , asked me whether I can tell the Jeans brand he is fond of uses any child labour or not in their production line ? He asked me as he saw in the label of recently bought jeans pairs being manufactured in Bangladesh. Asked, what he will do with that information, the reply was if there is any involvement of child labour , he will stop buying that brand in future. was amazed with the answer thinking how knowledgable and conscious of today's consumers are !!!

          May be someday one or the other Garment Retail Giant will leverage this consumer insight as their competitive edge and the other will follow later. If that happens that may garuntee consumer money flowing to the right end to ensure safety and bit better wage for the workers.
  • May 17 2013: I like your question: Does the market punish companies that abuse poor people?

    No, the market Depends upon companies who abuse poor people. We are simply not as evolved as we'd like to think we are.
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    May 16 2013: Life is cheap and greed rules.
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      May 16 2013: Life of poor & or powerless is the cheapest.
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        May 16 2013: A sad truth. Appears no one seem to care about poor people...
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    May 22 2013: People are greedy and do not care about the welfare of others.
  • May 22 2013: Seems to me that companies in e.q. North America go to other parts of the world because labour is very, very cheap. This includes China. These companies have no control over who builds the buildings those people work, or sleep in.

    Whatever can raise the profits or lower the costs is regarded as exceptable. Many Canadians cross the US border with that single thought in mind.
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    May 20 2013: do you think the system models people for abusing to others?
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    May 17 2013: We live in a world that values money-making than the dignity and sanctity of human life; there are so many companies paying lip-service to human rights, justice and charity; but their secret acts and attitude does show that they really don't care.
    Companies are run by people, and people are products of the societies and systems that molds them.
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    May 17 2013: Lizanne, it´s a pleasure to read your comments.

    Im agree not all apparel companies are bad, same of them have done an extraordinary work in poor countries, buliding schools, and introducing medical cares for their workers, for example.

    Anyway, some of them have no idea about the conditions in where poor workers done his job, just because it´s better dont know what happend there.

    Who have to solve this problem, customers, local goverments, the industry, or the golbar oprganizations?

    I think just and strong intervention of global organizations could help us.
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    May 17 2013: Lizzanne:

    Your first hand comment it´s very interesting.

    Of course it´s not easy to solve this kind of problems, dont´t you think that if costumer pay more like a "secure tax", for the workers in poor countries, the companies should give them better conditions?, i don´t think so.

    I think that we need strong control, the ONU, or the International Commerce Organization, have to involve in this stuff. Otherwise it´s wet paper.
    • May 17 2013: Hi Fernando,
      as a 'simple consumer', but with a first-hand look at those conditions, I truly wish I, in some way, could help change those awful circumstances... While we are still coping with this tragedy, yet another factory, the Rana Plaza complex near Dhaka, burnt to the ground, killing 8 people, a few weeks ago on April 24th!

      Have you seen this article in the Guardian?
      Disney has pulled out, and as more large corporations do that, the damage to the economy will be severe.
      According to this perspective, the solution may lie in an increase in minimum wage. But, he also suggests a price increase of merely 50 cents per garment, which could go to a sort of trust:
      "If we could create a Garment Workers Welfare Trust in Bangladesh with that additional 50 cents, we could resolve most of the problems workers face – safety, work environment, pensions, healthcare, housing, their children's health, education, childcare, retirement, old age and travel."

      Here is an interesting interview with Mike Moriarty, senior partner in A.T. Kearney's consumer and retail practice in Chicago, who talks about what the retail industry can learn from this:
      Among other things, Moriarty says:
      "Corruption, bureaucracy, and unsafe working conditions are all intangible yet important aspects of a low-cost country decision.
      Now, to say that all apparel companies are bad is not true. In fact, a lot of the labor groups are saying, 'Don’t leave. Stay and help us make this place better.' The global apparel companies are a big part of the solution for these low-cost labor countries, even as they might feel, and rightly so, that they are also contributing to the problem."
  • May 17 2013: As long as there is greed Well you know I am not really happy with this fact too. Why will things get better. Bubbles progress until they break. It's far worse than you indicate.
  • May 16 2013: To the people who died and lost friends and family im sorry for your loss i and people who do care are making efforts to support the changes you and others have demanded you have my support and respect be well dont give in to the toxic people who understand or really care about this issue.
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    May 16 2013: Market only punishes those who are unable to ensure enough PROFIT , nothing more nothing less.