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Big western brands are signing an Agreement to improve the safety of workers in Bangladesh. H&M, the largest purchaser of clothing made there announced that is supporting the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, initiated by IndustriALL Global Union and UNI Global Union and so did Inditex, owner Zara, among others. This comes almost three weeks after the collapse of a building housing five clothing factories that caused 1,127 deaths so far. They hope that the support of this big brands will attract others to sign the agreement, and it seems it is working.
In a press release, H&M, that didn’t have any factory in the building collapsed, explained that “the Accord, designed for a five-year period, is a pragmatic step towards addressing improved fire and building safety” in the garment industry. And added that “in order to make an impact and be sustainable it would need a broad coalition of brands and align with Government, Industry Associations and Trade Unions agreed National Action Plan, to reach the whole industry of approximately 5,000 factories.”
According to IndustriALL Global Union, “the Accord is a legally binding agreement – between the signatories, and the global unions (IndustriALL and UNI) and numerous apparel unions in Bangladesh. The agreement includes all of the components essential to be effective: independent safety inspections with public reports, mandatory repairs and renovations and a vital role for workers and their unions. The heart of the agreement is the commitment to provide for companies to pay for the renovations and repairs necessary to make factory building in Bangladesh safe, through pricing or other means.” They listed the western companies supporting the Accord and told about H&M, Inditex (Zara), C&A, Primark, Tesco, PVH (Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Izod),and Tchibo.
Meanwhile the government in Bangladesh’s approved a reform of the labor laws to make easier to form trade unions that has to be approved by the parliament.
So now everybody is working to provide some safety to the garment factory workers in Bangladesh and hopefully improve their economic situation also from a $38 a month to something more right and according to the dignity of the worker. But it was needed a catastrophe like the collapse of the building with so many dead people and the whole world watching to that horror to set things in motion.
The world would be best if this actions to provide safety and dignity to workers were taken because there is a will to do things right and not before a catastrophe reminds the world so many people live in poverty and so many times exploited.
The good thing about the Agreement for Bangladesh is that guarantees the staying of the signing companies in the country. One of the fears of the people there was that if there were protest from consumers in the West, the brands will move to other Countries leaving Bangladesh without its largest industry. But is clear that in conditions like the ones of the building collapsed and others with fires there is impossible to go on and any help to improve safety from the western companies will be welcome. Also would be great a help to the Bangladeshi unions to obtain better pays for the workers. It is sure the western companies can afford that.