Retailers Sign Bangladesh Garment Factory Safety Deal

International retailers embraced a labor-backed factory safety proposal for Bangladesh’s garment factories, raising hopes that similar tragedies might be avoided in the future.

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Ismail Ferdous / AP

A clothes tag lies in the rubble of a garments factory that collapsed in Savar near Dhaka, Bangladesh, May 5, 2013.

The official Rana Plaza death toll stood at 1,127 on Monday as rescue efforts were finally brought to a close. At the same time, thousands of miles away, international retailers embraced a labor-backed factory safety proposal for Bangladesh’s garment factories, raising hopes that similar tragedies might be avoided in the future. Zara’s parent company Inditex, Dutch retailer C&A, H&M, and British high street giants Primark and Tesco all signed the building and fire safety agreement backed by a coalition of labor groups known as IndustriALL.

Bangladesh is the world’s second largest producer of ‘fast’ fashion for export yet workers receive paltry wages and are forced to toil for long hours in sweatshop conditions. “Fire and building safety are extremely important issues for us and we put a lot of effort and resources within this area,” Helena Helmersson, head of sustainability at  H&M, said in a statement. “With this commitment we can now influence even more in this issue.” C&A and Zara both had suppliers within the eight-storey Rana Plaza, situated on the outskirts of the capital Dhaka, when it collapsed on April 24., while H&M remains the largest producer of clothing in Bangladesh.

(PHOTOS: Bangladesh’s Worst Industrial Accident: Scenes From a Terrifying Tragedy)

A spokesman for Primark hailed the agreement for “financing and implementing a joint fire and building safety program” that would include “safety inspections, remediation and fire safety training at supplier factories.” Previously, only two companies — PVH, which owns Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, and the German retailer Tchibo — had signed an industry safety accord for the country.

Rana Plaza housed at least 3,500 workers in five garment factories when it collapsed three weeks ago. Bosses ignored warnings to vacate the premises after gaping cracks indicated the building had been gravely compromised. The building’s owner, Sohel Rana, has already been brought before a court and had his assets seized after being caught attempting to flee the country. The collapse was the world’s worst industrial accident since India’s Bhopal gas disaster killed 2,259 people in 1984.

(MORE: Dying for Some New Clothes: Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza Tragedy)

On Sunday, Bangladesh’s government also announced plans to raise the minimum wage for the nation’s 4 million garment workers from the current rate of just $38 per month. Workers will also be allowed to form trade unions without employer approval. At least 943 out of 3,197 factories visited by fire safety officials in Dhaka have been deemed “substandard” or “risky.” Abdul Latif Siddiqui, Bangladeshi minister for textiles, told the Guardian that his government wants to safeguard the vital $19 billion industry while uplifting living standards for workers. “Labor should be justly appraised,” he said. “We do not want slave labor.” In November, 112 garment workers died in a factory fire in Dhaka while there were nine other fatalities in 41 other “fire incidents” over the following five months, according to official figures.

While the deplorable state of safety regulations in Bangladesh’s apparel industry was never in doubt, the majority of leading Western retailers still refused to sign the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement when it was presented by the International Labor Rights Forum in November. Companies cited rising costs and the potential for punitive legal action for their hesitance. Even while bodies were still being retrieved from the rubble that was once Rana Plaza another Bangladeshi sweater factory caught fire, killing eight people.

MORE: Eight Killed in Bangladesh Factory Fire; Collapse Toll Hits 1,000

4 comments
Patapunz
Patapunz

Apart from the fact that the most aspired brands also produce in environments where nor the worker, nor the manufacturing process, nor the law is respected (you can read books about it), I think we should all resize our human beings attitude. We can no longer proceed by producing and purchasing these many garments. That said, the problem it is not the way or the conditions in which those worker live and work. The problem is that our planet siriously cannot afford this kind of production and resources can no longer be used how we do. How about we help those people evolve the way they should, according to their culture and localization? And how about we stop buying so many cheap garments? Look at the climate and try to understand why climate chaos is happening. If we do not do anything as quick as possible, this accident will only be a tiny little piece in the big picture. And consumers are the ones who should take action, for example by not buying the cheap multinationals stuff. We need to stop thinking that our style, taste, elegance and appeal depend on how many garments we have or on how many times I get changed or on how much my image corresponds to the trashiest trend of the moment.

Magpie'sView
Magpie'sView

I repeat my call for what might be called "Equivalency Laws" that means all goods and services imported into the UK/USA must be produced under the same or equivalent Environmental, Health & Safety, Employment laws/regulations as those produced domestically and that those companies that breach these regulations should be fined 4 times the estimated profit made - a loss shareholders will have an absolute right to sue the Board members individually to recover. (in addition to right to sue them for losses due to the company being sued).

I am also aware of the argument that will  be put forward - that since the overpaid executives are not prepared to accept slightly less gargantuan salaries, and their not prepared to reduce the slush fund they need for bribing politicians, and they refuse to reduce the dividends to the share-holders - customers will have to pay more for the goods.

chicadelpanda
chicadelpanda

It's a first step , let's hope they will continue walking. But this is is horrible: "the majority of leading Western retailers still refused to sign the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement when it was presented by the International Labor Rights Forum in November. Companies cited rising costs..." Who pays for the deaths of all those workers?  Who is guilty for this? What if that had happened in the US? They would have to pay so much that they would go to chapter 11 (broke). In my opinion it's too little, too late, but again, let's hope not only they change but that the people who buy cheap clothes (all of us) open our eyes and see that person , that woman working like a slave, behind our pretty clothes.


Read more: http://world.time.com/2013/05/14/retailers-sign-bangladesh-garment-factory-safety-deal-as-collapse-rescue-efforts-wind-up/#ixzz2TOMkzxi0

azmalhome
azmalhome

in the Bangladesh making a new law is so easy thins. people and even politician don't like to follow any law. but government use some law according to them choice. richer pays a big amount to politician in the election time. how politician will make law against rich man. it's a law to keep quiet people. 

http://azmalhome.wordpress.com/