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Deadlock continues over Bangladesh safety accord

The fashion industry was inching closer to a historic agreement on fire and building safety for Bangladeshi suppliers on Wednesday, May 15.

But as the midnight deadline loomed, UK high street stalwarts Topshop and Debenhams and US retailers Gap and Walmart had been unable to sign because of various stumbling blocks.

H&M, Inditex, Primark, Tesco, Marks & Spencer, John Lewis, New Look and Sainsbury’s have signed the legally binding accord proposed by global trade union coalition IndustriALL. Proposals include a “credible and transparent” system of inspections, which obliges brands and retailers to pay for improvements.

Campaigners at Labour Behind the Label urged the outstanding retailers, alongside Walmart-owned Asda, not to ignore the proposals. A spokeswoman, Sam Maher, said the 45-day discussion period would be the time to address remaining issues, urging retailers to sign before the deadline passed. “We need a commitment now, as we can’t spend 45 days working on the implementation only for the retailers to drop out at that stage.”

Walmart – which has launched its own scheme – and Gap both said they would sign if amendments could be made.

Debenhams said collaboration was essential, but it could not sign until certain points had been clarified. It is working with the Ethical Trade Initiative (ETI).

Arcadia Group, which only received details of the accord at the eleventh hour, echoed this: “In order to show support for the initiative that this accord is proposing to undertake, we will be signing up. This will be on the condition that we understand the final cost to us, which to date has not been made clear.”

Readers' comments (2)

  • I am glad to see them doing something about this. It is in international disgrace. Can you imagine if 1021 British or American female workers were killed? I can not believe there isn't more of an international outcry. This should now be a priority within the industry to ensure better working standards and if that means the cost to the consumer needs to go up a bit then so be it. Topshop, Walmart, Gap and Debenhams need to sign urgently.

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  • Consumers of U.S. based companies who refuse to sign the agreement should take this article as a call to action.

    Consumers can help drive Gap, Walmart and other companies to adopt meaningful factory safety. Learn more and sign International Labor Rights Forum's petition: http://laborrights.org/safety

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