Campaigners hailed a new agreement designed to protect garment workers in Bangladesh, signed by H&M and Inditex, which owns Zara and Bershka.
The deal replaces another deal signed by more than 200 international fashion companies after the Rana Plaza factory burned down in 2013, in which more than 1,100 people died. For the first time, these companies faced legal action if their health and safety standards failed or if they did not resolve issues within an agreed timeframe. More than 38,000 inspections have been carried out since 2013 and nearly 200 factories have lost their contracts due to poor safety standards.
This agreement is due to expire at the end of August and negotiations for the new pact have been protracted. Union leaders feared that legally binding elements could be threatened and that improvements in conditions, wages and security since 2013 could be jeopardized, as well as campaigns to improve security at garment factories beyond Bangladesh. .
The new agreement, which is managed by the Ready-Made Garments Sustainability Council (RSC), is valid until October 2023. Companies that commit to extend general worker health and safety beyond fire and building safety, human rights due diligence throughout supply chains. , and make the same commitment to garment workers in at least one other country. The signatories agreed to meet in six months to discuss which countries, with the aim of making changes within two years.
Activists and union leaders welcomed the deal. Ayesha Barenblat, managing director of ethical fashion advocacy group Remake, told the Business of Fashion: “I think this is really a model for building back better. “
Valter Sanches, IndustriALL Global Union Secretary General, said: “This international agreement is an important victory in making the textiles and clothing industry safe and sustainable.
The full list of signatory companies will be unveiled on September 1.
Bangladesh has the third largest garment industry after China and Vietnam. In 2019, it was estimated that there were around 4,000 factories and 4 million workers, and the industry accounted for 16% of the country’s GDP, with $ 34 billion in exports.
The pandemic has had an impact on the industry. In March 2020, it was reported that orders worth $ 2.8 billion had been canceled or suspended. According to a survey of factory employers by the Center for Global Workers’ Rights at Pennsylvania State University, most international brands did not contribute to the wages of workers on leave and more than 80% of workers were sent home without pay.