Montreal-based Point Zero has distanced itself from a sweater factory in Bangladesh where eight people died in a fire on Wednesday, May 8 among growing concerns about international working conditions. The casualwear brand was the only Canadian client listed by the garment manufacturer, based in the city of Mirpur.
The label’s marketing director told the Globe and Mail on Thursday, May 9 that Point Zero ended its relationship with the Tung Hai Sweater Factory last August because of “non-compliance with our code of conduct for external vendors.”
Unlike the Rana Plaza tragedy, where an eight-story garment factory collapsed on April 24, killing over 1,000 workers in the largest clothing manufacturing disaster in history, the Associated Press reports that the sweater factory appeared to be up to code.
Atiqul Islam, president of the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association, blamed the collapse on “sabotage” on Thursday. “The factory was closed,” he said. “All air-conditioning units, fans and machines were switched off. That means most of the electrical switches in the factory were off. The possibility of the fire being ignited by an electrical short-circuit is very low.”
Despite Point Zero’s claims to have severed ties with the factory nine months ago, in the wake of Rana Plaza, the brand needs to go beyond this kind of “not our problem” statement. This would be the perfect time for Point Zero to take a leadership role in ensuring its international workers are employed under ethical conditions.
Joe Fresh’s Facebook page has become a de facto forum for people concerned about international working conditions. Point Zero hasn’t attracted that type of attention yet, but I for one would love it if the conversation about how consumers can feel confident in their purchases was one they started themselves.