Bangladesh garment workers fear as safety deal comes to an end


“The Europeans are trying to get North American retailers to do more to oversee collective security by weakening accountability,” Hajagos-Clausen said. “At some level, of course, we want more brands to sign up – after all, the same factories produce for American and European brands and other international brands. But all that is happening here is a reduction in the credibility of the program as a whole, making it impossible to use the agreement as a possible model for global coverage at a dangerous time for garment workers in Canada. whole world.

Faruque Hassan, the president of the clothing manufacturers association, did not respond to requests for comment. And while ssome western brands like Asos publicly stated that they would support a legally binding agreement, most were unwilling to comment during negotiations. H&M, the Swedish retailer that was instrumental in creating the original deal, is also a leader in ongoing discussions and remains “engaged” according to Payal Jain, head of global sustainability production at H&M.

Ms Jain said H&M “strongly supports” a structure involving unions, employers’ organizations and government, as well as clear accountability for brands, and increased capacity to fight fires and strengthen safety. in the country.

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

Bangladeshi factory workers, already facing wage cuts and delayed wages, will count on it. Clothing exports, which account for 80% of Bangladesh’s annual export earnings, fell 17% in 2020. The country’s clothing industry was devastated when brands closed stores during the pandemic and canceled deals. orders worth up to $ 3.5 billion, leaving many factory owners in shambles. The industry has seen a recovery, but the future remains uncertain – especially with continued lockdowns and virus outbreaks.

Small and medium-sized factory owners have long expressed pressure on the investments needed to meet safety standards. Today, their finances suffer more as many global brands continue to drive down order prices in a tough business environment. Brands have also called on factories to take costly new security measures related to Covid 19.

According to Posner, while unequivocal improvements have been made to worker safety in Bangladesh, the job is far from over. Although the deal and alliance affected around 2,500 factories, it is well known in the industry that there are more than double that number of installations, including contractors. An important the proportion of factories in Bangladesh remains dangerous.

“As the world begins to open up again and demand increases, no one in this equation can afford to look away from the ball,” Posner said. “The legacy of the agreement is at stake.”

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