US brands used Rana Plaza factories, Canada retailers to update industry guidelines

May 3, 2013

The United States on Wednesday acknowledged that American clothing retailers were being supplied by the Bangladesh garment factories in Rana Plaza whose collapse killed more than 450 people.
The US called on the country to ensure workers’ rights and safe working conditions.
‘We understand that businesses operating in this building [Rana Plaza at Savar] appear to have links to numerous companies in the US and Europe, and so we’ll continue to engage with US companies to discuss what role they can play in improving working conditions, including in Bangladesh,’ said state department spokesman Patrick Ventrell.
He declined to identify the companies by name, and stressed that diplomats had an ‘ongoing dialogue’ with US buyers.
A host of European retailers, including Primark, Benetton and Mango and Canadian brand Joe Fresh have admitted using factories in the collapsed building, reports AFP.
‘We continue to speak with many US companies that source from Bangladesh about workplace safety and the role that buyers can play in approving working conditions,’ Ventrell said.
The Retail Council of Canada, meanwhile, said that it was updating its industry guidelines in the wake of Rana Plaza collapse, reports Global News.
The association said in a statement Tuesday it would develop an updated set of guidelines for best practices and educational materials and resources for its members.
It did not release details of the guidelines.
The RCC said it has also joined a North American industry coalition of retail associations, and is working with the International Labour
Organisation, along with other stakeholders, including the Bangladeshi government, to come up with safety standards for the Bangladesh garment industry.
The group represents 45,000 Canadian retailers, including department, grocery and independent merchants.
Loblaw, which owns Joe Fresh, said it is in the process of contacting family members of the deceased to provide compensation.
Loblaw executive chairman Galen Weston said the company would take further action ‘to address the situation’ following the collapse of the building, where some of its ‘Joe Fresh’ garments were made, although he did not offer specifics.
In the United States, a democrat member of House Foreign Affairs Committee, Grace Meng, in a letter to Wal-Mart, Gap and the American Apparel and Footwear Association urged them to drop foreign contractors that don’t protect their workers.
She said deadly factory collapse in Bangladesh was a clear indication that some leading American companies, while profiting handsomely from the foreign labour, were not doing nearly enough to ensure the safety of workers overseas.
‘American companies should demand that their contracted suppliers correct all safety violations,’ she added, ‘and dismiss any contractor that places people’s lives at risk.’
Prominent Democrats Sander Levin and George Miller wrote a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to facilitate the development of a concrete plan of action to address the range of issues relating to working conditions and worker rights in the garment sector in Bangladesh.
‘We urge your Administration to lead an effort, together with the European Union, to bring together key European and American retailers that have sourced from Bangladesh to adopt a common response leading to a universal standard guaranteeing basic workplace safety and fundamental worker rights, whether garments are produced by direct contracting or subcontracting.  That response must also include effective monitoring,’ read the letter.
In another development, a group of Western clothing retailers and brands like Walmart and JC Penny have agreed to sit in talks in Frankfurt, Germany, later this month to finalise a fire and building safety plan aimed at preventing industrial disasters like the collapse of Rana Plaza factory complex.
Discussions, hosted on Monday  by the German Agency for Development Cooperation, GIZ, covered areas such as governance, inspections, remediation, training, a complaints process, transparency and reporting, supplier incentives, financial support and dispute resolution, reports UK-based Just Style.
A key element is said to include transparency on the results of factory inspections so companies can share their safety concerns.
Labour groups and non-governmental organisations said details will be concluded by May 15 and funds would be made available for inspections, training and upgrades of dangerous facilities.
The IndustriAll Global Union, the Clean Clothes Campaign and the Workers’ Rights Consortium added that the agreement will support the national action plan confirmed in March by the Bangladeshi government, employers and unions.

Source: New Age

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