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Book Reviews
Book Reviews
volume examines the work and progress of two
consortia (both set up by global retailers) – the
‘Alliance’ and the ‘Accord’ – which, following the
disaster, set up co-operative auditing systems
for factories in the supply chain and imposed
penalties for non-compliance. Thus, in their
Introduction, the editors – Andy Hira, professor
of political science at Simon Fraser University,
Canada, and Maureen Benson-Rea, associate
professor of management and international
business at the University of Auckland – note
that institutional voids in the area of labour
standards are particularly challenging since
it is unclear whether multinational corporations are – or even should be – able to bridge
the gaps with ‘informal social institutions
and social contracts’.
In April 2013, the eight-storey Rana
Plaza building outside Dhaka, Bangladesh, collapsed. At the time, the building housed five garment factories that
manufactured goods for major retail
companies in Europe and North America.
More than 1,100 people were killed and
2,500 others were injured. It is considered to be the deadliest disaster in the
garment industry. The causes included
shoddy construction, a building with too
many floors and too much heavy equipment for the structure to withstand.
The incident shook Bangladesh’s $28 billion
garment industry, the second largest in the
world behind China. It drew attention to the
appalling conditions in which factory employees worked, and raised questions about transparency in the global garment industry.
In the wake of the disaster, researchers in
the fields of industrial and labour relations
began to debate these issues, giving their
perspective of how multinationals operating in developing countries should regulate
labour standards in order to improve the
substandard working conditions under which
much of the clothing was made.
This book critically explores the efforts of the
garment industry to improve safety conditions and suggests governance reforms that
should help to resolve lingering issues. The
But the need for developing workable models
of governance is crucial if similar disasters
to the Rana Plaza are to be avoided. Three
possible options are considered: (1) Expansion
and adjustments to the corporate led model;
(2) The reinforcement of public regulation
of factories; and (3) Developing a hybrid, cooperative model of public-private governance.
Chapter 2, Threads of despair: an argument
for the public option in garment governance gives an analysis of the shortcomings
of ‘corporate-led’ approaches to support
the view that public regulation of factories
(option 2) should be further developed. It
argues for public solutions since the pressure
for change must come from political initiatives created by greater workers’ bargaining
power and representation in government.
Chapter 3, The legacy of Rana Plaza:
improving labour and social standards in
Bangladesh’s apparel industry analyses the
system of compliance assurance in Bangladesh before the Rana Plaza tragedy took
place, and assesses the new institutional
and enforcement mechanisms. The contributors set out a detailed explanation of the
processes and actors involved.
Chapter 4, A governance deficit in the
apparel industry in Bangladesh: solutions to
the impasse? The contributors begin from
a position which says there is an impasse
in the safety and health situation in the
Bangladesh apparel sector, which stems from
a deficit in governance. They suggest that
an extended form of Option 3 (see above),
with a mix of the three options, is necessary if the problems in the industry are to be
tackled. Social governance institutions as
September 2017 The RoSPA OS&H Journal
well as public and private governance must
be included.
The final chapter, Anti-consumption and
governance in the global fashion industry:
transparency is key, brings consumers into
the debate, shedding more light on Option
3. Presenting their analysis in the context of
new behaviours among increasingly aware
consumers, who may well choose to make
more informed purchasing decisions and
who may even reject products based on
companies’ poor practices and reputations,
the contributors argue for more transparency
in garment supply chains. This chapter also
includes a case study of a garment company
in Patagonia which illustrates how new practices and values can work in practice.
Overall the final chapter points out that the
solution ultimately lies in unleashing the
power of consumers to demand safety and
income standards for the workers who make
the products they purchase. Though such a
goal may seem remote at present, greater
transparency and publicity could well bring
it within reach.
This is a book that tugs at the conscience.
Some people pay extraordinary amounts of
money for designer clothing but few would
stop to ask themselves how much the workers
were paid and what sort of conditions they
endured while making them. It is time that
consumers start to ask some penetrating
questions and shine a light on bad practice.
Governing corporate social responsibility in the apparel industry after
Rana Plaza. Edited by Anil Hira and
Maureen Benson-Rea. Palgrave Macmillan
ISBN: 9781137601780. £86 (HB)
Occupational groups most at risk of
assaults or threats at work are those in
protective service occupations such as
police officers, fire service personnel,
prison service workers and police community support officers.
Following this group of workers, healthcare
professionals and health and social care
employees and transport workers all face the
risk of verbal or physical violence as they go
about their daily work.
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