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Editorial: Factory Safety Issues Raised as Textile and Garment Exports from Pakistan Gain Easier Access to the EU market
published in Issue 158, September 2012
On September 11, 2012, a fire broke out at a garment factory in Karachi, Pakistan, killing 289 workers. It has been alleged that the high death toll was due to the fact that the factory had no fire fighting equipment and only one escape route was available. In an unfortunate irony, during the same month that the fire broke out, the European Parliament voted to allow easier access to EU imports of certain textile and clothing items from Pakistan. The emergency trade preferences were granted in response to the humanitarian and economic disaster caused by the floods which hit the country during July-September 2010 despite vehement opposition by Euratex (European Apparel and Textile Confederation). The fire has sparked new concern and debate over the working conditions in Pakistan's garment factories. In this report, Robin Anson analyses the reactions to the fire from trade union groups, pressure groups such as the Clean Clothes Campaign and apparel brands. He also provides a conclusion in which he challenges governments in apparel producing countries to invest in safer workplaces, and speculates whether the factory fire will prompt brands to engage more actively in corporate social responsibility (CSR).
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