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Major Fashion Labels Sign Bangladesh Safety Accord

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The organization War on Want reported to its members that many global retailers have signed on to a "landmark agreement" which has brought together brands, suppliers, trade unions, and NGOs to end appalling and unsafe factory conditions in Bangladesh.  The retailers that have signed are H&M, Zara, C&A, PVH (supplier of Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Izod labels), Tchibo, Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Primark, El Corte Inglés, jbc, Mango, Carrefour, KiK, Helly Hansen, G-Star, Aldi, New Look, Mothercare, Loblaws, Sainsbury’s, Benetton, N Brown Group, Stockmann, WE Europe, Esprit, Rewe, Next, Lidl, Hess Natur, Switcher, Abercrombie & Fitch and Bonmarché.

 

At its heart, the legally binding Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh asks companies to commit to pay up to $500,000 yearly over five years for renovations and repairs necessary to ensure the safety of the Bangladeshi workers in factories that supply cothes to these companies.   The labor watchdog organization Workers Rights Consortium, lists the major provisions of the agreement as: 

Independent safety inspection with public reports, mandatory repairs and renovations, the obligation by brands and retailers to underwrite the costs and to terminate business with any factory that refuses to make necessary safety upgrades, and a vital role for workers and their unions.

 

On the May 15 deadline for companies to sign on to the accord, some major retailers whose clothes are manufactured in Bangladesh have refused, including Walmart, Children's Place, and the Gap, which is seeking to change the way disputes are settled in court (some say they are asking to avoid liability).   On the 15th of May, protesters gathered to deliver a letter to the manager of a Children's Place store in Colombia Heights, Washington, DC, demanding that the retailer sign on to the safety accord.

 

Organizations such as War on Want, the Clean Clothes Campaign, Avaaz, and the Workers Rights Consortium have been advocating internationally for companies sign the accord since the Rana Plaza disaster.

 

In the United States, university chapters of United Students Against Sweatshops have helped to stage demonstrations against Gap in more than a dozen cities including Seattle, Los Angeles and New York.

 

After rescue efforts at the site of the collapsed Rana Plaza factory complex officially ended last week, at least 1,127 were confirmed dead, while hundreds are still missing.

 

 

Meanwhile, the Bangladeshi cabinet on May 13 lifted restrictions on the formation of unions, reversing a 2006 law that required employees to obtain their employer's permission to organize.
 
 
Also a new minimum wage board has been set up by the government including factory owners, workers, and government officials, which is expected to recommend pay raises. The new standards would still need to be approved by the cabinet, however.
 
 
A video of the protest in front of Children's Place in Washington, DC: