Fears of Bangladesh Garment Workers as Safety Agreement Drops

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“Europeans are trying to encourage North American retailers to contribute more to collective security monitoring by weakening accountability,” said Ms Hajagos-Clausen. “On the one hand, of course, we want more brands to register – after all, the same factories produce products for both American and European and other international brands. But all that is happening here is a decline in confidence in the program as a whole, making it impossible to use the agreement as a possible blueprint for global coverage at a dangerous time for garment workers around the world. ”

Farouk Hassan, president of the Garment Manufacturers Association, did not respond to requests for comment. And so far withsome western brands like Asos publicly stated that they would support a legally binding agreement, but most of them did not want to comment while negotiations were underway. H&M, the Swedish retailer that was instrumental in creating the initial agreement, is also a leader in the ongoing negotiations and remains “committed” according to Payal Jain, H&M’s head of sustainable global manufacturing.

Ms Jain said that H&M “strongly supports” a structure that includes trade unions, employers’ organizations and government, as well as clear accountability for brands, and building fire and safety capacity in the country.

“We are confident that we can find good solutions,” she added.

Bangladeshi factory workers, already facing wage cuts and delays, will count on it. Apparel exports, which account for 80 percent of Bangladesh’s annual export earnings, fell 17 percent in 2020. the sewing sector was devastated as brands closed stores during the pandemic and canceled orders worth up to $ 3.5 billion, leaving many factory owners at risk of bankruptcy. The industry is seeing a recovery, but the future remains uncertain, especially with ongoing lockdowns and virus outbreaks.

Small and medium-sized plant owners have long stated that they are constrained by the investment required to meet safety standards. Now their finances are suffering further as many global brands continue to cut order prices in a challenging trading environment. Brands have also asked factories to adopt costly new security measures related to Covid 19.

While there have been clear improvements in the safety of workers in Bangladesh, Mr. Posner said the work is far from complete. While the agreement and alliance has covered some 2,500 factories, it is well known in the industry that the number of factories, including subcontractors, has more than doubled. Significant share of factories in Bangladesh remains unsafe

“As the world starts to open up again and demand continues to grow, no one in this equation can afford to take their eyes off the ball,” said Mr Posner. “The legacy of the agreement is at stake.”

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