The International Labor Rights Forum welcomes announcements made this week by seventeen companies -- Aldi, Benetton, C&A, Carrefour, El Corte Inglés, G-Star, H&M, Helly Hansen, Inditex (Zara), KIK, Loblaw, M&S, Mango, N. Brown group, Primark, Stockmann, Tesco – to sign onto a legally-binding safety program for their apparel supplier factories in Bangladesh, with IndustriALL Global Union, UNI Global Union, and Bangladeshi unions. With these announcements, the companies have joined with PVH and Tchibo, which were the first to embrace a binding agreement in 2012.
According to ILRF, the Accord agreed to by the nineteen companies includes all of the components essential to be effective: independent safety inspections with public reports, mandatory factory building renovations, the obligation by brands and retailers to underwrite the cost of repairs, and a vital role for workers and their unions – all in a legally-binding, enforceable agreement.
Judy Gearhart, executive director of International Labor Rights Forum, said: “This is a really tremendous advance to have seven global brands and retailers make a binding commitment to worker safety. Now we need major US brands and retailers such as Walmart, Gap, and JC Penney to join in the same agreement. It has become crystal clear that we cannot trust the brands to police themselves; we must push them past confidential, voluntary initiatives that sideline workers and trade unions.”
The companies’ announcement follows in the wake of a series of protest activities. During the past month, over one million people have signed petitions calling on global corporations to adopt meaningful factory safety in Bangladesh, and hundreds of consumers have held demonstrations at Gap and Walmart stores in major cities around the United States. Last week, International Labor Rights Forum and United Students Against Sweatshops launched a new website, titled gapdeathtraps.com, with store manager letters, flyers, chants, and petitions, for consumers to take action at Gap stores across the country.
“It’s with a heavy heart that we’re celebrating the announcement by the five companies. Over 1,250 garment workers have been killed in preventable fires and a building collapse in Bangladesh in the past six months; it shouldn’t take horrors like Tazreen Fashions and Rana Plaza for companies to agree to basic safety measures in their supply chains,” said Gearhart. “It’s also very disappointing that none of the US brands have yet come forward with compensation for the victims of these tragedies. Walmart, Sears and Disney all had product in Tazreen, just as The Children’s Place, Cato and JC Penney had product in Rana; they owe it to the victims to contribute to the compensation fund.”