Sun, Jun 03, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Major brands fail to join Bangladesh safety accord

Thomson Reuters Foundation, NEW DELHI

Swedish furniture giant IKEA and US music mogul Sean “P. Diddy” Combs’ clothing were among companies sourcing from Bangladesh that had failed to sign an accord for the safety of millions of factory workers as it took effect on Friday.

The pact is a three-year extension of the Bangladesh Accord, a legally binding agreement between global brands and trade unions drawn up after the Rana Plaza collapse, one of the worst industrial accidents in modern history.

It established a fire and safety program for the country’s US$28 billion a year textile industry, which employs about 4 million people.

So far 175 of the 220 companies in the original accord have signed, but high-profile brands including Abercrombie & Fitch, Combs’ Sean John apparel and Britain’s Edinburgh Woollen Mill have not, said the Clean Clothes Campaign, which lobbies to improve workers’ conditions.

“[They] are doing themselves and their customers a disservice and are knowingly putting the lives of the workers producing for them at risk,” Clean Clothes Campaign’s Christie Miedema said.

More than 1,100 people were killed when the Rana Plaza factory complex collapsed in 2013, sparking outrage over poor working conditions in the garment sector.

Since then Western brands that manufacture in Bangladesh have been under pressure to do more to ensure worker safety.

Sean John did not respond to requests for comment and the Edinburgh Woollen Mill was not reachable.

Abercrombie said it was reviewing the accord, while IKEA said it had chosen to focus on its own safety audit program IWAY, rather than signing up.

Unlike the original accord, which expired on Thursday, the new one is open to non-garment companies like IKEA that produce home fabrics and textiles.

Campaigners have urged them to sign up, arguing that other schemes such as IWAY lack transparency because they do not make inspection findings and reports public.

“We operate on a highly competitive market, and for competitive reasons, we don’t hand out a list of our suppliers in Bangladesh or any other country,” IKEA said in a statement.

Bangladesh, which ranks behind only China as a supplier of clothes to Western countries, relies on the garment industry for more than 80 percent of its exports.

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