Fashion companies constantly pressure Bangladesh’s garment suppliers to keep prices low and make clothing faster. This results in cost-cutting on safety and wages and mistreatment of workers. Fashion brands also fail to compensate factories for safety improvements. While factories have had to invest in safety measures, the prices they get have not gone up. As competing garment factories are pushed lower on price by global clothing brands, profit margins are squeezed and this leads to workers’ wages being cut or paid late, restricted break times, and rising production targets. This also leaves factories that had made safety improvements unable to compete or forced to push costs onto their workers by cutting wages.
Factories struggle to pay higher wages as they do not get a fair price from brands. In fact prices paid by brands have fallen despite big investments by factories to improve conditions after the Rana Plaza collapse. The collapse of the factory in April 2013 killed more than 1100 workers, placing scrutiny on major brands and sparking demands for better safety in the world’s second-largest exporter of readymade garments.
One way out is for factory owners to work together in order to push back against brands that make unreasonable demands and request ever-lower prices.