Unions hail Bangladesh garment industry deal

Swiss-based labour federations Industrial Global Union and UNI Global Union on Thursday praised top retailers for joining their drive to make Bangladesh's garment factories safer, after 1,127 people died in a factory collapse last month.

"This accord is a turning point," Philip Jennings, UNI Global Union's general secretary, said in a statement.

"We are putting in place rules that mark the end of the race to the bottom in the global supply chain."
The two union umbrella groups — which claim a combined global 
membership of 70 million — have been working for several years with Bangladeshi labour activists to craft an accord with Western retailers to improve shocking safety conditions at factories.
Efforts were given new urgency by the April 24th disaster in which the 
nine-storey Rana Plaza factory complex outside Dhaka crumbled, causing one of the world's worst industrial disasters.
The complex, which was found to have seriously violated construction laws, 
made clothes for a string of global names.
The full list of deal signatories released 
on Thursday was: H&M, Inditex, C&A, PVH, Tchibo, Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Primark, El Corte Ingles, 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, and Abercrombie & Fitch.
"The companies who signed up are to be applauded," said Jyrki Raina, 
general secretary of IndustriALL Global Union.
"We are talking improving the working conditions and lives of some of the 
most exploited workers in the world, earning $38 a month in dangerous conditions," he added.
The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, which 
represents 4,500 apparel factories, has also welcomed the accord.
The agreement binds retailers to hold independent building and fire safety 
inspections and pay for repairs.
Industry experts say most garment factories are unsafe as they are housed 
in converted blocks of flats or complexes such as Rana Plaza, designed to accommodate shops and banks.
Jennings criticized US groups Walmart and Gap for not joining in.

"Walmart, the world's largest retailer, is out of step. By not signing up 
the Walmart brand sinks to a new low. Equally Gap's refusal to join is a mistake that shoppers will not forget. We will make progress without them," he said.
Walmart, however, has undertaken to inspect all 279 of its Bangladeshi 
suppliers and publish the results, while Gap has underlined that it launched its own drive last October.
Bangladesh is the world's second-biggest apparel maker and the $20 billion 
(15.5-billion-euro) industry accounts for up to 80 percent of annual exports.

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Talks fail on Bangladesh clothing worker claims

A two-day meeting in Geneva of high street clothing brands and pressure groups aimed at reaching a compensation deal for victims of two Bangladesh factory disasters ended Thursday in failure, organizers said.

The talks came after a building housing garment factories collapsed in Bangladesh in April, killing more than 1,100 people.

They were aimed at agreeing compensation for the families of those victims and those of other factory disasters.
The disaster placed the international spotlight on the often appalling conditions and the lack of rights for workers at the country's 4,500 garment factories, and retailers responded with a pledge to improve safety.
But the campaign groups that organized the meeting said only around a third of the firms invited had even turned up, with key names including Walmart, Benetton and Mango staying away.
Primark was the only clothing retailer to make a concrete commitment at the meeting, vowing to provide a further three months salary to families affected by the Rana Plaza factory collapse.
The 11 brands that made an appearance were mainly European and also included Bon Marche, Camaieu and Store Twenty One.
"We are disappointed that they didn't commit to an amount," said Ineke Zeldenrust, international coordinator at the Clean Clothes Campaign.

"We had hoped to achieve much more."
Organizers, said $74.57 million would be needed to compensate the Rana Plaza victims for their suffering and lost income.
Another $6.44 million would be needed for the victims of a deadly fire that killed 112 workers at the Tazreen Fashions factories outside Dhaka in November, they said.
Bangladesh is the world's second biggest apparel exporter, with its garment factories accounting for 80 percent of its overseas shipments.
But the industry has been hit by a series of recent disasters highlighting appalling safety conditions at many factories.
In July Bangladesh approved a new labour law to strengthen employees' rights and improve workplace safety, in response to the Rana Plaza collapse.
"Consumers will be shocked that almost a half-year has passed since the Rana Plaza disaster with only one brand so far providing any compensation to the disaster's victims," IndustriALL assistant chief Monika Kemperle said in a statement.
New meetings would take place with retailers within the next two weeks, organizers said.