Primary links

WELCOME TO THE ARCHIVE (1994-2014) OF THE MAQUILA SOLIDARITY NETWORK. For current information on our ongoing work on the living wage, women's labour rights, freedom of association, corporate accountability and Bangladesh fire and safety, please visit our new website, launched in October, 2015: www.maquilasolidarity.org

Which companies haven’t committed to worker safety in Bangladesh?

July 8, 2013

The signing of the Accord for Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh represents a breakthrough toward ensuring that no more workers making garments of western clothing brands in Bangladesh lose their lives in preventable factory disasters like the Rana Plaza building collapse and the Tazreen factory fire.

The Accord  sets out terms for a program of independent, transparent factory inspections, worker and management training, active health and safety committees, and time-bound remediation of unsafe factories - all overseen by and accountable to a joint trade union/company steering committee.  It also backs up these commitments with a legally-binding dispute resolution mechanism.

As of August, 2013, the Accord has been signed by 85 international brands including Inditex (owner of Zara), the largest fashion apparel retailer in the world,  and H&M, the largest buyer of clothing from Bangladesh.

It has been endorsed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the European Parliament, and others. US and Canadian institutional investors together representing more than US$3 trillion in assets under management have urged North American companies to sign the Accord.

So why have only one Canadian company (Loblaw Inc) and five US companies (PVH Corp., Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle Outfitters, Sean John Clothing and Scoop NYC) signed the Accord to date? 

Some major US companies, including Gap Inc. and Walmart, have publicly declared their unwillingness to sign the Accord, expressing disagreement with the legally-binding nature of the agreement (arguments which have been roundly criticized by labour rights lawyers - see here and here). Instead, they are working with US and Canadian retail and apparel federations to develop an alternative, non-binding, secretive and company-controlled program that does not involve and is not accountable to workers and their organizations. In Canada, the Retail Council of Canada, the Canadian Apparel Federation, and Canadian Tire have been supporting the development of the weaker US program.

The Gap/Walmart initiative divides and undercuts global efforts to achieve a comprehensive solution to endemic safety hazards in the Bangladesh garment export industry at a time when it is critical that the industry speak with one voice. Their decision to go it alone on worker safety issues will send confusing and contradictory messages to Bangladeshi suppliers, thereby allowing those suppliers to avoid taking swift and decisive action. This company-controlled initiative could therefore undermine serious efforts to prevent further workplace disasters.

The companies that have signed the Bangladesh Accord deserve credit for getting behind a comprehensive, transparent and accountable program to end factory deaths in Bangladesh. The companies that have not joined the Accord, however, should be told loud and clear that there is no other credible alternative to this Accord, and inaction is not an option. 

Here is a partial list of companies that have not yet signed the Accord:

Canadian companies:

  • Canadian Tire (Mark's Work Wearhouse, Sportchek and others)
  • Hudson's Bay Company
  • Lululemon
  • Reitman's (Smart Set, Penningtons, Addition Elle, etc)
  • YM Inc. (Bluenotes, Suzy Shier and others)
  • Fairweather

US Companies:

  • Gap Inc.
  • Walmart
  • Sears
  • Target
  • Macy's
  • Kohl's
  • Forever 21
  • Carter's
  • The Children's Place
  • Footlocker
  • Aeropostale
  • JC Penney
  • VF Corp (Wranglers, North Face, Timberland etc)

For more information on the Accord, see:

 

Share this