Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Will things really change or merely salve western middle-class consciences? Accord signed after Bangladesh factory deaths

Global retailers signing accord
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Global retailers signing accord
Posted Date: 14/05/2013
By Inside Retail
Global retailers including H&M, Zara, Tesco, and Primark are set to sign a legally binding agreement in the wake of Bangladesh's worst ever garment factory disaster.

The move on Monday by some of the world's biggest chains aims to improve fire safety in Bangladeshi factories and improve the safety standards of buildings.

It comes as workers continue to clear the rubble of the Rana Plaza, a garment factory near the country's capital city, Dhaka, that collapsed last month, killing more than 1,100.

The disaster, which implicated global retailers like Bennetton, Primark, and Mango, sent shockwaves across the world and has led to heavy scrutiny of many major retailers' supply lines.

Bangladesh is the world's second largest garment exporter after China, with brands like Walmart, H&M, J C Penney, Benetton, Gap, and Zara among its biggest benefactors.

The world's biggest retailer, Walmart, which was linked to another Bangladeshi factory disaster late last year that killed over 110, has yet to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety.

The deadline for signing The Accord is on Wednesday, with it billed as a legally binding agreement between signatories, global unions, and numerous apparel unions in Bangladesh.

The agreement includes all of the components essential to be effective, including independent safety inspections with public reports, mandatory repairs and renovations, and worker unionisation.

“We welcome the decision of H&M, [Zara parent company] Inditex, and C&A to sign, and we urge other retailers to follow suit immediately," said Philip Jennings, global union general sectary of UNI Global, one of The Accord's global union partners.

"We call on these companies to do the right thing on behalf of the more than 1,250 textile workers killed in Bangladesh factory disasters in the last six months. This is black and white, life and death.”

Hundreds of Bangladeshi garment factories have been closed indefinitely in the last two weeks, following worker unrest sparked by the country's worst ever industrial disaster.

The country's government has since said it will allow the country's four million garment workers to form trade unions without permission from a factory's owner.

It has also indicated that it will raise the minimum wage for garment factory workers, many of whom currently earn just over $1 a day. 

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