Bangladesh Factory Deaths Prompt Inspection Accord

IAM President Tom Buffenbarger hailed the recently announced agreements with retailers H&M and Inditex to create a safety inspection system for clothing suppliers in Bangladesh.
The agreement is the result of collaboration between the Worker’s Rights Coalition and the International Labor Rights Forum (NGO, non-governmental organizations), and IndustriALL Global Union Federation.
“The IAM worked hard to push through this agreement. We are glad that some retailers now truly understand the importance of working with unions and their global union federations to prevent anymore horrific tragedies, like the recent fires and building collapses that have killed more than 1,200 workers,” said Buffenbarger. “The IAM will continue to work hard to make sure that all retailers sign onto the agreement. Two giant U.S. retailers, GAP and Wal-Mart, have yet to sign on.”
H&M is the single largest producer of apparel in Bangladesh, ahead even of Wal-Mart. The agreement is substantially the same fire and building safety program already embraced by PVH (Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein) and German retailer, Tchibo.
The Worker’s Rights Coalition said the accord is a legally binding agreement between the companies and the IndustriALL Global Union, the UNI Global Union, and Bangladeshi unions.  It includes independent safety inspections with public reports, mandatory factory building renovations, the obligation by brands and retailers to underwrite the cost of repairs. The agreement also includes a vital role for workers and their unions in protecting their own safety.

The accord is a significant departure from companies’ non-binding and confidential social compliance programs that sideline workers and trade unions, and have failed to protect workers from mortal workplace dangers. It will succeed in protecting workers to a greater degree when major U.S. brands and retailers join the program.