Big Brands Rejected Bangladesh Factory Safety Plan

Bangladesh Building Collapsed - AP

Big brands rejected Bangladesh factory safety plan Associated Press Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Updated 7:24 am, Friday, April 26, 2013 DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — As Bangladesh reels from the deaths of hundreds of garment workers in a building collapse, the refusal of global retailers to pay for strict nationwide factory inspections is bringing renewed scrutiny to an industry that has profited from a country notorious for its hazardous workplaces and subsistence level wages. After a factory fire killed 112 garment workers in November, clothing brands and retailers continued to reject a union-sponsored proposal to improve safety throughout Bangladesh's $20 billion garment industry. [...] companies expanded a patchwork system of private audits and training that labor groups say improves very little in a country where official inspections are lax and factory owners have close relations with the government. The plan would ditch government inspections, which are infrequent and easily subverted by corruption, and establish an independent inspectorate to oversee all factories in Bangladesh, with powers to shut down unsafe facilities as part of a legally binding contract signed by suppliers, customers and unions. In December, however, a spokesperson for the Gap — which owns the Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic chains — said the company turned down the proposal because it did not want to be vulnerable to lawsuits and did not want to pay factories more money to help with safety upgrades. Private audits also have their failings, she said. Because audits are confidential, even if one company pulls its business from a supplier over safety issues, it won't tell its competitors, who will continue to place orders — allowing the unsafe factory to stay open.

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