This report is based primarily on interviews conducted in Bangladesh from October 2013 to April 2015. Human Rights Watch researchers visited Dhaka and surrounding towns where garment factories are situated. We interviewed a total of 160 workers, 37 of them women from 44 factories about factory conditions and safety issues. Among them were 88 workers from 39 factories involved in efforts to form trade unions. Most of these factories are covered by the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh or the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety. Some interviews with factory-level labor leaders were facilitated by contacts provided by the Solidarity Center (AFL-CIO) office in Dhaka.
Our interviews also included 46 former Rana Plaza workers and relatives of the deceased workers killed in the collapse as well as 15 former workers and relatives of deceased workers killed in the Tazreen Fashions fire.
All worker interviews were conducted in person, with some follow-up interviews conducted by telephone.
Workers in the Bangladesh garment industry fear losing their jobs if they publicly complain about poor working conditions and violations of labor rights. Some fear that factory owners share an informal “blacklist” of “troublemakers,” and that if they are fired and then put on such a list they may not be able to find further employment. As this report demonstrates, some workers also face the threat of serious physical and verbal abuse. For this reason we have withheld the names of workers who are still employed by the factories they discuss, and have also chosen not to publish the names of those factories, instead using randomly assigned letters of the alphabet. Where interviewees consented to being identified and did not fear job-related retribution because they no longer work for the factories, we have used their actual names. In some of the latter cases, we have also named the factories.
Before each interview we informed the interviewee of its purpose and asked whether he or she wanted to participate. No incentives were offered or provided to persons we interviewed. Interviews were conducted in discreet locations some distance from where the workers lived so that they would not be spotted or overheard. Human Rights Watch paid for their transport and in some cases also provided them with food or food expenses if they had a long journey or needed to wait to be interviewed.
Human Rights Watch researchers also interviewed 40 people closely involved with the Bangladesh garment industry, including factory owners, union organizers, international campaigners, and representatives of the two retailer-led initiatives to make the industry safer. We conducted these interviews in Bangladesh, the US, Europe, and Hong Kong. All were conducted in English, most of them by telephone.
Human Rights Watch also wrote to twenty-eight western retail companies seeking their views on the complaints that we had received about their sourcing factories. Ten companies responded, of which two denied that they had a continuing relationship with the factory. Eight others said that they were investigating the complaints.
We also reached out to 15 factories to seek their response on the complaints. Only three have responded.
We have also included in this report responses received by companies on supporting the compensation fund.