H&M, the largest producer of apparel in Bangladesh, has pledged to sign an accord mandating safe working conditions and other provisions for the country’s garment workers, following the horrific collapse of Rana Plaza and the deaths of over 1,100 people.
WWD reports that the retail behemoth has agreed to sign a binding agreement with labor unions, stipulating that companies like themselves will pay for renovation and repairs so that the factories where their merchandise is produced are safe for those who work there. Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium labor watchdog, told the trade:
“H&M’s decision to sign the accord is crucial. They are the single largest producer of apparel in Bangladesh, ahead even of Wal-Mart. This accord now has tremendous momentum…This agreement is exactly what is needed to finally bring an end to the epidemic of fire and building disasters that have taken so many lives in the garment industry in Bangladesh. It is a legally binding, enforceable agreement under which signatory companies must take the steps necessary to protect the lives of the workers who make their clothes.”
Those who already attached their names to the agreement are PVH, which owns Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, and German retailer Tchibo. For the companies who have signed on, this means instituting independent factory inspections, undertaking mandatory repairs and renovations, and pledging to terminate the contracts of factories that refuse essential upgrades.
For the estimated 3.6 million garment workers employed in Bangladesh, the new provisions should mean “a vital role” in new safety measures, a greater voice independently and through labor unions, and a working environment without imminent fear of fire or collapse.
This, compounded with the news that the Bangladeshi government plans to raise the minimum wage for garment workers, points to a major wake up call for retailers, government officials, and consumers, but it’s tragic and senseless that it had to take a devastating event such as this to open everyone’s eyes.
For more on past tragedies in Bangladesh, read the reports on November’s Tazreen Factory Fire and for the latest news from the Rana Plaza collapse, watch the video reports below: