Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Six Major Retailers Sign Factory Safety Upgrade Plan In Bangladesh

After H&M, the largest purchaser of garments in Bangladesh, announced on Monday that it would sign a fire and safety upgrade plan in the country, four other retailers have similarly signed on: Spanish retailer Inditex, owner of Zara, Dutch retailer C&A, and British retailers Primark and Tesco. Europe accounts for 60 percent of the country’s clothing exports. American company PVH, which owns Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, and Izod, also signed onto the deal, a more expansive version of one it had already signed, and pledged to contribute $2.5 million to underwrite factory safety improvements.

As the New York Times reports, “The agreement calls for independent, rigorous factory safety inspections with public accountability and mandatory repairs and renovations underwritten by Western retailers. It also enhances the roles played by workers and unions to ensure factory safety.” It will last for five years.

But even as large European retailers signed on, major companies in the U.S. stayed on the sidelines. Gap said it was ready to sign the agreement “today” but first wanted a change in how disputes are resolved. Walmart stayed silent on the agreement but called on the country to shut a factory and examine another after its inspections found “structural concerns.”

The country also announced on Monday that it would raise the minimum wage in the garment industry within three months and allow workers to form a union without first getting permission from factory owners.

The death toll from the Rana Plaza factory collapse has reached 1,127, and rescue crews have now stopped searching the rubble for survivors.


Carrefour, a major French retailer, has joined the other companies in signing the agreement.

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