Understanding The Alliance and The Accord on Bangladesh worker safety

5 Dec 2013by Oxfam

Who has joined the accord for workers' safety in Bangladesh

Since April this year Oxfam has been asking Australian companies sourcing from Bangladesh to join the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord. The Accord is a legally binding initiative that mandates independent safety inspections (involving trade unions and local groups), the right for workers to be able refuse dangerous work.


Australian companies feel heat from Bangladesh factory fire

Another fatal fire in a Bangladeshi clothing factory has raised tough questions for Australian retailers. New safety standards are being introduced to prevent future incidents, but some Australian companies have yet to sign up. MORE

Kmart regrets late building checks in Bangladesh

The retail giant Kmart had admitted it only began building safety checks in Bangladesh after May’s deadly factory collapse. Kmart has pledged to continue sourcing garments from Bangladesh but says it has zero tolerance for unsafe buildings, sweatshop conditions and slave labour. MORE

While the retail giant Kmart has pledged to keep doing business in Bangladesh, it says it’s now carrying out building safety checks on factories after the recent factory collapse that killed more than 1000 garment workers.

Kmart didn’t source any clothing from the stricken factory, but it has been under pressure from human rights groups and customers to dump unethical suppliers who put workers in danger.

Kmart says it now has a zero tolerance for unsafe buildings, as well as for sweatshop conditions and slave labour.

Kmart didn’t source any garments from suppliers in the Rana Plaza building where so many workers died, but you do deal with other factories there. So how do you know they’re not dangerous sweatshops with cheap labour?

GUY RUSSO: Well we have a zero tolerance for anybody that does anything wrong, not just in Asia but also in Australia. It’s the way not only Kmart but Wesfarmers does its business.

I take it very seriously that if anyone does anything that breaks local laws and we do not operate in any factories that don’t follow the laws or do not look after their employees, whether it’s safety or working conditions or wages.

Ethical Fashion: Is The Tragedy In Bangladesh A Final Straw?

High cost of fashion

A garment factory that manufactures products for international clothing companies collapsed outside of Dhaka, Bangladesh, last month, killing more than 400 workers and injuring scores of others. It came on the heels of a fire at another factory in November 2012; that incident killed 112 workers.

Factories like these in Bangladesh pump out what author Elizabeth Cline calls “fast fashion,” or clothes made on the cheap by big chains such as H&M, Zara, Esprit, Lee, Wrangler, Nike, J.C. Penney and Wal-Mart.

“There is no other reason why a company would be doing business there,” she says. “These deaths are happening because they are trying to step into the shoes of China. The cost of labor, the costs are going up in China and fashion companies are trying to maintain their margins and trying to maintain their cheap prices, so they want Bangladesh to do what China was doing. But Bangladesh can’t do that.”

It’s a numbers game, says Cline. Bangladesh has around 4,000 garment factories compared to China’s 40,000. The average wage for a garment worker in China is close to $200; the average for a worker in Bangladesh is $37.

More on this story

Filmed in Bangladesh, one of the world’s largest textile manufacturers, this resource explores the social cost of our cheap textiles. With footage filmed inside a number of Bangladeshi textile factories, it explores the issues of sweatshop labour, poor working conditions, a fair wage and the right to unionise, asking: who is responsible? It then compares the social impacts of this mass-scale textile production with the benefits brought to a small rural community in Bangladesh by a fair trade textile initiative.

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Questions – make dot point responses

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