Asia's largest clothing retailer, Fast Retailing, said on Thursday (Aug. 8) that it has signed a legally binding pact for improving factory conditions in Bangladesh, according to Bloomberg.
The Japan-based chain, which is the parent of Uniqlo, said it signed the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, which is also backed by H&M, Inditex, Aldi and more than 70 other, mostly European retailers. Most major U.S. chains have not signed the Accord but, in July, 17 North American retailers formed their own group with a five-year plan to improve Bangladesh worker conditions.
Fast Retailing said it has also independently reviewed fire and building conditions at plants in Bangladesh. Unlike most European apparel makers, who depend heavily on Bangladeshi contractors for their manufacturing, about 70 percent of Fast Retailing's manufacturing is done in China, with the rest divided among Southeast and South Asian countries, including Bangladesh.
Both the European-backed Accord and the North American group were formed in the wake of the April 24 collapse of a building housing a number of Bangladeshi apparel factories that killed 1,132 workers and injured more than 2,500. At the time, amid intense international attention, both the Bangladesh government and an apparel manufacturers' trade group said victims would be compensated. The Bangladeshi government pledged injured workers and family members of the deceased would receive $1,200 in cash, $19,236 in savings certificates and an additional $1,200 lump sum in life insurance benefits, according to The Daily Star, a Bangladeshi newspaper quoted by the Huffington Post
But only about 350 survivors and family members of the dead have received between $1,200 and $2,500 from the government, and the trade group has paid out wages earned by workers in the month before the disaster but only to survivors. That group, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, had said it would also pay workers wages for the three months after the collapse, but that hasn't happened either. How much impact either the European or North American efforts will have on improving the situation remains to be seen.
Dueling Bangladesh Plans Mean More Eyes, Fewer Loopholes
Walmart, Gap Launch Bangladesh Factory Safety Group
Bangladesh Factory Owners Aren't Held Accountable Because They Control The Law, Activists Say