H&M and Zara to sign Bangladesh safety accord

 
Bangladeshi Army personel stand as they continue the second phase of the rescue operation The collapse of the factory is being called Bangladesh's worst industrial disaster

European retailers, including Hennes & Mauritz and Inditex which owns Zara, have said they will sign an accord to improve safety conditions in factories in Bangladesh.

The move comes three weeks after a garment factory building collapsed, killing more than 1,100 people.

Hundreds of factories were forced to close due to recurrent worker unrest sparked by the disaster, officials say.

The government has since announced steps aimed at improving conditions.

That includes raising the minimum wage for industry workers and making it easier for them to form unions.

Factory closures

At least 1,127 people died when the nine-storey Rana Plaza collapsed on 24 April. Authorities have said that the rescue operation is now drawing to a close.

The military ends its search for bodies on Tuesday and will hand the site over to the district administration.

The collapse is the latest in a series of deadly incidents that have focused global attention on safety standards in Bangladesh's export garment industry, which is the second biggest after China's.

Graph showing the growth in the number of people employed in garment factories in Bangladesh

On Monday Bangladesh's textile association said that owners of factories made the decision to shut down after workers went on a rampage.

"Owners decided to close their factories on safety grounds after workers went on a rampage almost every day after the collapse of Rana Plaza," Mohammad Atiqul Islam, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said.

One report said as many as 300 factories had closed in the Ashulia industrial area near Dhaka.

The European and US companies that source their clothes from Bangladeshi factories have been under increased pressure to have more oversight of the industry.

Impact questioned

Now, some European retailers have signed on to the legally binding agreement called the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, which includes regulations on safety inspections and requires retailers to pay for factory repairs.

Two labour groups are behind the pact and the deadline for retailers to sign on is 15 May.

Discount clothing company Primark and UK supermarket chain Tesco have also signed up to the agreement.

Sixty percent of Bangladesh's garment exports go to European retailers.

However, major US firms including Gap Inc, Walmart and Sears have said they will not sign the agreement, throwing its impact into question.

US retailer Gap said it would only sign the accord if changes were made to rules on how disputes were resolved.

"With this single change, this global, historic agreement can move forward with a group of all retailers, not just those based in Europe," said Eva Sage-Gavin, from Gap's global human resources and corporate affairs department, in a statement.

The collapse of the factory was Bangladesh's worst industrial disaster. In its wake the government has been taking steps to try and reassure Western buyers.

On Monday, it altered the country's labour law to allow garment workers to form unions without interference from factory owners.

Earlier, Bangladesh agreed to discuss an increase to the minimum wage in the sector which is currently $38 (£25) a month, still one of the lowest in the world.

Rana Plaza collapse

Floor Factory/business

Seventh

New Wave Style*

Sixth

New Wave Style*

Fifth

Ether Tex

Fourth

Phantom Tac

Third

Phantom Apparels

Second

New Wave Apparel, New Wave Bottoms

First

Brac Bank and shops

Ground

Brac Bank and shops

Source: BGMEA

Firms who say they used the Dhaka suppliers

Loblaw

"Our priorities are helping the victims and their families, and driving change to help prevent similar incidents in the future."

Primark

"Primark's team in Bangladesh has been working to put in place immediate and long-term help for victims of this disaster."

Joe Fresh

"Our priorities are helping impacted employees and their families, and driving change to help prevent similar incidents like this in the future."

Benetton

"We have since established that one of our suppliers had occasionally subcontracted orders to one of these Dhaka-based manufacturers."

Matalan

"Whilst we were not using any suppliers based in the building... We can confirm that we are working closely with the BGMEA and our local team in Bangladesh to provide financial and other support to help those affected."

Mango

"Mango would like to clarify that the supplier Phantom was not a supplier of the company, although they were planning to produce some samples for various company lines, samples that still had not been started."

Bonmarche

"We are committed to reviewing how we can learn from this with other retailers, but our focus now is rightly on information gathering and supporting where possible our supplier and the families of those involved in this tragedy."

The Children's Place

"One of our suppliers was located in the building that collapsed. While none of our apparel was being produced there at the time of the tragedy, we are fully aware of our responsibilities in the aftermath of this event. "

 

More on This Story

Dhaka collapse

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  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 238.

    Minimum standards of employment protection, health and safety and environmental standards should be imposed world wide as the price of being allowed to join the World Trade Organisation. Ultimately, this could be used to forbid child labour, restrict excessive working hours, insist on break periods, clean drinking water and toilets. Governments could be forced to intrduce new laws.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 108.

    Well done, those retailers who have signed. Shame on those who haven't.

    It's up to all retailers to ensure that better standards are established and maintained and it's up to us shoppers to hold stores to account, ask questions and, if we are not satisfied with the answers, shop elsewhere. And yes, we have to be prepared to pay a bit more,

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 93.

    To all those saying its our fault to some extent buying ever cheaper clothes, 100% agree.

    but it will not change untill the clothing industry adopts the fair trade system that food and coffe shops have adopted. That works fine.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 87.

    More should be spent on safety and employees working conditions and wages.

    But not at a cost to the average consumer, many of whom can't afford to pay more for even basic goods because they simply aren't paid enough.

    But it doesn't have to be at the detriment of the workers.

    Cut remuneration from the top down and spend more on the people who actually make the profit - the workers.

  • rate this
    -26

    Comment number 65.

    We need to obtain cheap clothes as our living standards decline. I will continue to shop at Primark and anywhere else who supplies clothes within my price range. How the Bangladish authorities treat their workers is not my problem

 

Comments 5 of 11

 

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